The Essence of Play: A Practice Companion for Professionals Working with Children and Young People, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Essence of Play

A Practice Companion for Professionals Working with Children and Young People, 1st Edition

By Justine Howard, Karen McInnes


156 pages

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pub: 2013-01-11
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A unique companion to professional play practice!

All play professionals are united in their belief that play is important for children’s development – and there are inherent characteristics of play that underpin professional play practice across contexts. Providing an overarching concept of play, drawing together the evidence base across disciplines and linking theory to practice, The Essence of Play is the ideal handbook for all those working with children.

Play acts as a natural resource for children to meet physical, intellectual and emotional challenges and this book, unusually, considers play from the perspectives of children rather than adults. It provides a baseline of shared knowledge for all play professionals, exploring the fundamental value of play rather than a ‘how to’ approach to practice. It considers:

  • the therapeutic potential inherent in play;
  • how play reflects and promotes physical, emotional, intellectual, linguistic and social abilities;
  • the emergence of different types of play skills and why these are important;
  • cross-cultural patterns in play, gender, atypicality and adversity, highlighting the relevance of these issues to professional play practice;
  • the benefits of utilising play for assessment and other professional practice issues such as ethical play practice, balancing risk with health and safety and the creation and management of boundaries.

This text is designed for students and practitioners working with children across the helping professions, including early years education, play therapy, playwork, childcare, social care, nursing and allied health. Each chapter provides directed reading and small reflective tasks to encourage readers to digest key issues.


'This is an important book. Based on new ground-breaking research into children's perspectives on play, Howard & McInnes present revolutionary guidelines for play practice. This book has the potential to transform understandings about children's playfulness, and, in particular, about how this vital ingredient in the growth of learning and well-being can be practically supported and nurtured within educational, recreational and therapeutic settings.' Dr David Whitebread, Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology & Early Childhood Education, University of Cambridge, UK.

Table of Contents

Foreword David Whitebread Introduction 1. Theoretical Perspectives on Play 2. Exploring Play and Child Development 3. Playfulness 4. The Role of Adults in Children's Play 5. The Play Environment 6. Inclusive Play Practice 7. Observation and Assessment through Play 8. Professional Practice Issues Conclusion

About the Authors

Justine Howard is Postgraduate Programmes Manager and Senior Lecturer at the College of Human and Health Sciences at Swansea University, UK. She is a Chartered Psychologist and specialist in developmental and therapeutic play.

Karen McInnes is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Glamorgan, UK. As a trained primary school teacher and speech therapist, she previously lectured in Early Years at Bath Spa University, UK.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Preschool & Kindergarten
MEDICAL / Allied Health Services / General
MEDICAL / Health Care Delivery
MEDICAL / Nursing / Pediatric & Neonatal
PSYCHOLOGY / Developmental / Child