The activity in this section considers the importance of play as an expression of children's agency and as a contributory factor to children's wellbeing. You will be encouraged to reflect on how children's play intersects with your own role and relationships with children, and the level of opportunities children have for play beyond the gaze and influence of adults. You will critically analyse the extent to which some children are denied opportunities for play, and how play space itself is sometimes a site of inequality and power.
There is one activity for you to complete that recognises how adults still have a role in initiating and supporting play.
The scrutiny of adults can, in some ways, impede or interfere with children's opportunities to play. In this activity we recognise that adults still have a role in initiating and supporting play to ensure that it is inclusive. You will consider what kinds of skill, knowledge and values are needed to achieve this.
Compile a list of practitioner skills, knowledge and values that appear to be important to this experience.
Click play to watch the 'Play' video clip (6 minutes).
It is widely acknowledged that disabled children (perhaps more so than other children) have lives that are constantly under the scrutiny and influence of parents or carers. One consequence of this can be that disabled children are marginalised from mainstream play opportunities and environments, and all of the benefits that these can provide. Therefore, practitioners need to have a commitment towards inclusive opportunities for all children, as well as sensitivity towards the realities and associated feelings of children, parents and carers.
Sometimes the overbearing attitudes of adults towards children emerge from a desire to protect them from potential discrimination, from their own feelings of isolation, or a lack of awareness of what support services are available in their neighbourhood. Some children also need and desire close adult contact to maintain their own emotional or physical safety.
In the video clip, Paul Dumbleton reminds us that both children and their families sometimes need a break from each other, and projects like Play Plus have evolved in response to this. Practitioners consequently need skills to be able to work sensitively in partnership with families, and to provide them with information and flexible choices geared towards their differing positions and lifestyles.
It is evident from watching the video clip that practitioners need to work as a team and communicate knowledge about children with each other. Providing inclusive play opportunities may mean attending to children's specific requirements and desires (even to the extent of providing one-to-one support), yet this can only be achieved where practitioners are fully aware and consistent in their approach.
Children with behaviours associated with the autistic spectrum may benefit more than others from differing levels of structure and certainty within the play environment. Skill is needed to facilitate these children's participation in group play settings, striking a balance between structure and the integral uncertainties associated with free flow play.
The video clip provides many examples of practitioners working to ensure that their support for children is as unobtrusive as possible. In reality, and with well-planned and adequately resourced support, most disabled children can have positive and inclusive play experiences.