Scotland's Play Strategy: Playing with quality and equality: a review of inclusive play in Scotland

A review of inclusive play in Scotland.

5. Children and young people: survey and consultation packs

The children and young people's survey allowed respondents to answer either of a parallel set of questions - the first was suitable for children and young people describing their activities as play or playing. The second was generally more suitable for older children and used terms such as free time and leisure and was informed by the Working Definition for Play for Older Children and Young People (see Appendix 2). 49 children chose to respond about playing and 29 about how they spend their free time for fun and enjoyment. Respondents were told it was fine to have someone help them with the survey and 27 children and young people told us that someone in their family or another person was helping them.

It was recognised that the quantity of responses was relatively low and a number of surveys were only partially completed, so a certain caution is required in interpreting the responses. The questions asked in the survey were subsequently explored through the consultation packs completed by children and young people's groups. Relevant information from the consultation packs is therefore included below. Quotes in this section are from children and young people's survey responses unless otherwise stated.

What do you really like to play at home?

Technology featured highly amongst a broad range of playful experiences and current favourites such as Loom Bands and Minecraft.

"climbing on my play garage, looking at picture books and putting Duplo in the washing machine"

"computer games, drawing, X- box, Lego"

"dolls, drawing, reading, playing Frozen, games, hide and seek, gymnastics, gardening"

"I've got a 'thing' that used to be something else, it went on the window, and I use it as a toy. I just imagine stuff and make up games with it." (Consultation Pack Response)

Who do you like to play with there?

Figure 6 Children and young people's surveys

Figure 6 Children and young people's surveys

Do you have any of these places to play in near where you live?

All the children who responded had their own garden to play in, and also commonly reported playgrounds (62%), parks (69%), and other people's gardens (55%). Natural spaces such as beaches, woods and rivers were also a feature of children's play landscape and in addition "a loch", "my daddy's farm" and "fields" were mentioned.

Is there anything that stops you playing in any of them?

Figure 7 Children and young people's surveys

Figure 7 Children and young people's surveys

Half of the children said that there was something that stopped them playing in at least one of the places. A playground (swing park) was the most commonly reported. The reasons for this are consistent with the messages coming through from the consultation packs which related to general cleanliness and upkeep, dogs, dog fouling (vividly illustrated for us in the consultation packs!), bullying, fear of older children, and anti-social behaviour in play areas. The consultation packs also commonly described play areas as 'boring'.

"No wheelchair access" (Consultation Pack Response)

"No disabled toilets" (Consultation Pack Response)

The play needs and behaviour of children is sometimes at odds with parents and carers understandable wish to keep children safe from harm.

"No physical boundaries to keep me safe...park has too many exits and wide open spaces, as does local primary school playground. I can only play in my own back garden which is securely fenced and bolted gates." (Parent/carer responding with their child to the survey)

Also consistent with the consultation packs is the need for need for adults to support or accompany children:

"somebody else has to come with me. Sometimes they are too busy to take me."

"not allowed on my own" (Consultation Pack Response)

Children often reported not feeling welcome or safe in the area around their homes:

"Neighbours not wanting you to play around house" (Consultation Pack Response)

"Neighbours complaint about playing in the street. They also complain about building the MUGA (multi use games area). But if that was built I wouldn't be playing in the street I would be playing in the MUGA" (Consultation Pack Response)

"Traffic all the time in my street."

Home isn't always a safe place for children.

"I used to be scared to go outside to play when my family were fighting."

What do you really like to play at school or nursery or out of school club?

Again children described a wide range of play activities they enjoyed:

"sand pit, painting, playing outside, reading".

"I go to a childminder, this means I can do things I would normally enjoy at home like going out on my bike or going down the river to throw stones in" (Parent/carer responding with their child to the survey)

In response to this question in the survey, there was less of an emphasis on technology than in response to the same question about playing at home. In the consultation packs Minecraft, Xbox, phones etc. featured heavily in activities enjoyed especially in out of school care where a wide range of indoor and outdoor play were reported.

"out of school club - cards, loom bands, football, tig, dodge ball"

There were many examples given of outdoor play such as adventure trails, football, informal sports such as dodge ball, tig, mud kitchens, and trips to beach, parks and country parks.

In the consultation packs there were many reports of barriers to playing in this context including rules about games children could or could not play, particularly rough and tumble type play such as 'play fighting' but even running around.

"In the MUGA tig is banned because teachers are worried in case kids fall over."

Who do you like to play with there?

Children often mentioned family members, friends, 'leaders' (in this context this seems to mean play leaders/playworkers in out of school care), and 'other autistic people'. Children also played on their own.

Do you usually get enough time to play?

Consistent with the consultation packs, most children (21 of the 29 who answered this question) said they usually get enough time to play; seven of the 29 'only sometimes' and one 'never'. Children and young people often said they had enough time to play in one setting but not in another (most often nursery and school).

"At home yes but not at school."

"I like playing at OOSC because it's really good fun."

"Nursery is over very quick. I want to play more there with my friends. "

"I play lots at home, but not at nursery school. Sometimes my legs get too sore to play. "

"Not in school, but we get enough time in After School. "

"Would like more breaks in the school day to play, better stuff in the playground (Consultation Pack Response)

If you need it, do you usually get enough help to play in the way you'd like to?

Figure 8 Children and young people's surveys

Figure 8 Children and young people's surveys

Again, consistent with the consultation packs, most children said they got the help they need. Of the 29 who answered this question, five 'only sometimes' got the help they need, three 'hardly ever' and two 'never'.

Comments attached to this question were largely from parents/carers advocating on behalf of their children and these particularly related to the need for an adult to support and supervise when doing things like going out to play on a bike, to facilitate communication or simply to pay enough attention.

"The After School ladies are busy on the phone and making snack or waiting for people to come in (like mums and dads). In school at play time the ladies are standing watching people are not getting hurt or being bad."

Do you usually get to play with who you want to?

Figure 9 Children and young people's surveys

Figure 9 Children and young people's surveys

Of the 27 children who answered this question, most said yes they did get to play with who they wanted to, six 'only sometimes' and four 'never'.

"Yes, apart from the playground is split up into ages so don't always get to play with who I want to" (Consultation Pack Response)

"If my friends are on their bikes on the road I am not allowed to go without an adult because I wobble. If they are running I can't keep up so I get left behind sometimes."

"Sometimes they are playing with someone else. Every time they are playing tig I can't play because I'm the slowest runner of all the boys. One girl is faster than me. I've caught up with her a lot and got past her."

"It would be better if they had more stuff outside the school, because all there is is that Adventure Trail, but we're getting new things. That's good! I don't know what we are getting. Our Head Teacher told us we are getting more stuff."

Parents and carers responding on behalf of children also suggested sessions with smaller numbers of children, quieter play times and alternative activities that were easier or less frightening to join in with.

Is there anything that would make any of this easier and more fun for you? If you had a magic wand what would you wish for to help you play in the way that you want?

"Mum and Dad play with me lots but it would be good if they could have a bit more time"

"We would like an outside play area at our OOSC."

"term time play time can be short!! in school if weather wet etc. they won't let us out to play!!!"

"I would want an aeroplane or an air balloon so I could fly. I would want a kite thing that I could go on, then would fly back down. I would want more time to play."

Parents and carers advocating on behalf of children also suggested groups specifically for children with autistic spectrum disorders, 'buddies' to provide support in social situations, more support to communication, improvements to outdoor play areas.

"Three breaks instead of two" (Consultation Pack Response)

"Parks closer to houses" (Consultation Pack Response)

"Making parks easier to walk to" (Consultation Pack Response)

There were frequent suggestions from children for adults to be around:

"Parks should have equipment you can borrow and an adult in charge of those things" (Consultation Pack Response)

"More adults to let us play and keep us safe" (Consultation Pack Response)

How do you spend your free time for fun and enjoyment?

This set of questions was offered as an alternative to questions about play and playing, with older children and young people in mind, but it follows the same pattern.

What do you really like to do for fun around your home and with your family when you have free time to use as you choose?

Young people answering this question gave a flavour of the range of activities they like to take part in:

"playing outside in my sandpit, climbing frame and toys. Playing inside with my train set, reading books. Going walks"

"I like to hang out with family and friends. I like looking after young children and gaining experience on handling children who are hyper. I like to interact with different ages of people who have different interests."

Many of the young people mentioned outdoor activities, and some also enjoyed Facebook, watching TV and movies, and paying video games.

Who do you like to spend your free time with at home?

See Figure 6 above

Do you have any of these to hang out in near where you live?

Of the 20 respondents, parks, own garden and local sports centre, youth club or community centre were most frequently reported.

Is there anything that stops you hanging out in any of them?

See Figure 7 above

Own garden, park and local sports centre, youth club or community centre were equally likely to be reported in response to this question however the numbers of respondents is low. There were few mentions of local sports centre, youth club or community centres in the consultation packs with which to compare.

What stops you from hanging out there?

"I am different or people think I am. It is easier if I just do not go."

"It's scary going alone however do go with my cousins on our bikes"

"Lack of people my age in area. My friends don't live near me so I go out other places. (When I can actually get a bus!! They are a rare thing round here!!)"

"don't like my garden. not allowed in the park"

What do you really like to do when you have free time at school, college or clubs?

"I like to do the same things as other people my age. Going out, making friends and playing sports"

"I like to chill and hang with friends if I don't have any work to do."

"Musical Theatre, Scouts, Shopping, Hang out with friends, Cinema."

"art, drama, flour fights, trips out of city"

Who do you like to spend time with there?

Friends have really taken over as the most favoured people to spend time with where younger children talked more about family members and also workers.

Do you usually get enough free time for fun stuff?

10 of the 15 children felt they usually did get enough free time and the remaining five 'only sometimes'.

"I am dyslexic and home work takes a long time therefore time with my friends is less. I also do swimming club which takes up two nights where I cannot meet my friends."

"I always seem to have something to do! It would be easier if it didn't take forever to get places by bus."

"Too much free time"

If you need assistance, do you usually get the assistance you need to spend free time the way you'd like to?

See Figure 8 above

Four young people responded with "only sometimes", two "never", and four "yes" while the others didn't need help

Do you usually get to hang out with who you want to?

See Figure 9 above

Six young people said 'Yes' and eight 'only sometimes'

Is there anything that would make any of this easier and more fun for you?

"Have more stuff to do where I live for my age group. Everything seems to be far away, or make it easier to get buses that turn up and run later so I can go out after 6.10pm!!!"

"More play time at school."

"Less homework"

If you had a magic wand what would you wish for to help you spend your free time in the way that you want?

"More activities to do stuff with friends."

"Choice to spend it the way I want. With people like me that understand me instead of trying to get included when it doesn't really work."

"being able to opt in and out of things. Not having to spend 10 weeks doing this and that. I can't cope with too much rules as I find them difficult to follow"

In summary, this section of the review was trying to gain a better understanding of the experiences of children and young people from their point of view and to start to look for indications of what would help take us closer to the Play Strategy's Vision for play for all children, from where we are now.

This is the vision

"We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up. A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools and communities." Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision (2013) Scottish Government.

These are some of the things that could help achieve this.

It would help if:

  • Within a more coordinated approach, more care was taken to understand children and young people's daily experience of play: that is, to try to understand play in the pattern of a child's whole day and broader experience, taking into account time to play, space to play and suitable support to play in all of the settings the child spends time in.
  • Design and management of play spaces, particularly in schools, was improved; spaces conducive to different ways of playing were included, and areas with a feeling of calm, security and quiet were available to children who choose them. (See also sections 6, 7, 8 and 15 for comments and recommendations on physical environments).
  • Designated play spaces were looked after better, and children and young people were involved in decisions about them.
  • Resources were directed to shared, playable spaces where children and young people could find inclusive opportunities to play particularly in their local neighbourhood environment.
  • There were greater opportunities for participation of children and young people in decisions which impact directly and indirectly on their opportunities to play.
  • Informed support to play was available in settings where children and young people spend their time.


Email: Deborah Gallagher

Back to top