“There is no better activity for learning and development than play.”

Doherty and Hughes

“Our aim is that all children and young people enjoy high quality play opportunities in stimulating spaces with access to nature, on a daily basis in early learning, childcare,  nursery and in school.”

Play Strategy for Scotland

Play contributes to children’s educational development

There is considerable evidence that playing helps support children’s cognitive development. This includes the development of language skills, problem solving, gaining perspective, representational skills, memory and creativity. Although to many adults, children’s activities whilst they are playing may look meaningless, they are important to and for the child.

Playing in outdoor environments with natural features can also improve children’s concentration, self-confidence, self-regulation and an awareness of the needs of others.

Playing contributes to learning through helping children internalise “the links between motivation, emotion and reward. This helps them coordinate their feelings, thoughts and behaviour” (Lester and Russell). This development takes place throughout childhood.

The role of parents and other adults in supporting and encouraging play throughout childhood, and in playing with their children in early childhood, is important in both widening children’s experiences and in helping develop strong emotional bonds.

 “We need more parents to be supporting and encouraging young children to learn – and have fun – through play – looking at bugs in the park, banging spoons off biscuit tins and building tents from sheets in their rooms.”

Professor Susan Deacon 

As children grow up, play remains important to all aspects of their learning and development. The freedom, choice and control play offers allows them to learn about being in groups, sharing, negotiating, resolving problems, and standing up for themselves and each other, building their confidence and resilience.

We have a range of resources to support more play in learning environments.

Playwork Principles

These Principles establish the professional and ethical framework for playwork and as such must be regarded as a whole. They describe what is unique about play and playwork, and provide the playwork perspective for working with children and young people. They are endorsed by the national training organisation for playwork – SkillsActive – and by Play Scotland. The principles can be found here

“We know the benefits playing outdoors delivers for children in terms of improved health and well-being, building resilience and connecting with nature. Scotland has a wealth of great outdoor space, including in the heart of our cities, and the expansion of early learning and childcare provides us with an opportunity to increase the amount of time children spend playing in these wonderful spaces.”

Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Children and Young People