Play in Schools

As children and young people spend many hours at school we have listed below information for playing at school.

In recent research carried out by educationalists at Plymouth University with backing from the Social Reseach Council, reseachers said that “outdoor lessons and “free play” helped children learn independently and could be more effective than classroom-based activities in the early years of school”.

 “Play improves wellbeing and mental health.  If children come into class in the morning happy, then they learn better”
Primary Headteacher, Edinburgh

In 2012 the Health & Safety Executive launched a new briefing paper Children’s Play and Leisure – promoting a balanced approach.

Health and safety laws and regulations are sometimes presented as a reason why certain play and leisure activities undertaken by children and young people should be discouraged. Such decisions are often based on misunderstandings about what the law requires.

This statement makes clear that:

  • Play is important for children’s well-being and development
  • When planning and providing play opportunities, the goal is not to eliminate risk, but to weigh up the risks and benefits
  • Those providing play opportunities should focus on controlling the real risks, while securing or increasing the benefits – not on the paperwork
  • Accidents and mistakes happen during play – but fear of litigation and prosecution has been blown out of proportion

School Grounds

In many areas, school grounds offer the only play space available.  Having access outside school hours can enhance opportunities within the community as this is also a safe environment for children to play in.

Useful Resources

Curriculum of Excellence, Scotland

Outdoor learning experiences are often remembered for a lifetime.  Integrating learning and outdoor experiences, whether through play in the immediate grounds or adventures further afield, provides relevance and depth to the curriculum in ways that are difficult to achieve indoors.

Curriculum for excellence through outdoor learning

Education Scotland

Education Scotland is a Scottish Government executive agency whose strategic objectives and the are the alignment of their programmes of work to the National Outcomes. Full details

Developing an adventure playground: the essential elements

Briefing paper from Play England on developing an adventure playground.

Grounds for Learning Scotland

Grounds for Learning is the Scottish programme of the UK charity Learning through Landscapes and supports outdoor learning and play for children. Full details

Natural Play Project, Grounds for Learning, Scotland

Extract from GFL – Most children spend at least 2000 hours of their life in a school playground, probably more than in any other outdoor play setting. Despite this, many UK schools do little to create the kind of rich play environments and experiences that we know are important for children.

In other parts of Europe, play is viewed as a crucial aspect of school life – and their playgrounds and play practice are radically different from what we know here in the UK. Full details

Play in a Pod, Smart Play Network

Through Smart Play Network, Play in a Pod, has been devised to provide children in Scotland with more opportunity for unstructured, imaginative play using loose parts and scrap materials. They offer a programme of training and consultancy to schools and community groups interested in setting up loose parts play projects and resource hubs.  Full details

Play Strategy for Scotland, Scottish Government

Executive Summary: Children’s play is crucial to Scotland’s well being; socially, economically and environmentally. Our people are our greatest resource and the early years of life set the pattern for children’s future development.

‘The experiences children have in early life – and the environments in which they have them – shape their developing brain architecture and strongly affect whether they grow up to be healthy, productive members of society’ (Harvard University, 2007).

Play is an essential part of a happy, healthy childhood and ‘when children play their brains do two things: they grow and the become organised and usable’ (Hughes, 2013). By investing in all our children and young people now we can strengthen their ability to achieve their full potential.
Full details