Play strategy for Scotland: our vision

Scotland's first national play strategy.


Parents and carers are a child's first educators and have a crucial role to play in encouraging their development. Supporting children to grow up in a rich home learning environment, providing secure boundaries and guidance and offering emotional stability from the first days of life is fundamental to holistic child development.

The last three decades have seen significant changes in the way we live. Increasingly busy lifestyles can often be the reason for a lack of play opportunities or uptake. We know that parents and carers feel pressure for their children to have the newest toys and the latest games consoles and regularly attend structured activities such as dance classes and swimming lessons. They often feel they need to be seen to be 'as good as other parents' and that this is primarily achieved through spending money.

"I've learned kids are happy playing with almost anything, you don't have to buy expensive toys"
(A parent, 2013)

Free play opportunities provide the biggest benefit in a child's development and we should support Scotland's parents and carers to feel positive about providing their children with a rich variety of experiences, which do not cost a lot of money. It is important to remind ourselves our time, guidance and support to play is just as important in making a difference for children and young people.

Play changes as children grow up and at the pace and stage appropriate to them. Outdoor play opportunities are needed at all ages and stages as a frequent part of family life. As children grow older they need opportunities to develop independence through playing outdoors, helping to develop and practise important life skills within the real world.

The PlayTalkRead campaign aims to encourage parents and carers to engage more with their babies and young children through day to day experiences supported by the availability of online resources and within their own communities. Created using the play@home principles , it offers practical solutions for involving children in daily life. These can be used to strengthen bonding and communication, improve parenting skills and introduce physically and mentally healthy attitudes from the first days of life. PlayTalkRead also benefits from the Bookbug principles, encouraging parents and carers to read together with their children from birth using the Bookbug packs given to every child in Scotland and participating in storytelling and Rhymetime sessions. It aims to encourage families to make regular use of local facilities such as libraries and community centres.

There is a role for the family, as a loving and nurturing unit and as individuals within the family, in supporting play in and around the home, spending quality time together through shared interests and hobbies or playing games outside and in. Of course, every family is different. Long-term health conditions, physical or learning disabilities, unemployment and bereavement are only some of the issues affecting families across Scotland every day. Many more children and young people now live in one parent families and may require greater support from the wider family and community in which they live. It is important to recognise that play can be used as an invaluable and unique therapy, caring for children and young people to increase their enjoyment, support recovery and aid physical and mental wellbeing, within the home, the community and in health settings.

"There were lots of ideas I can use with my son and his blind father so he can be more involved"
(A mum visiting the PlayTalkRead bus in Ayrshire, 2013.)

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