The Play Return

The Play Return This month sees the release of a new report written by the writer, consultant and independent researcher on play, Tim Gill. It offers an overview of the case for play based on a selection of field based information, what Gill calls an evidence review.

“The overarching implication of this report is that playing is a powerful experiential process for children, and one that demands respect and careful consideration. Adults need to allow children enough freedom and responsibility to learn from their own efforts and mistakes, while being alive to what might go wrong” – The Play Return, Gill, 2014

Its title, The Play Return, comes from part of the Play Cycle illustrated through the paper on psycholudicsThe playground as therapeutic space: playwork as healing’ Sturrock and Else, 1998. It is another call to the value of play drawing on previous reports and new collected data to support the case for play in helping to enhance children’s lives. It makes a point of going beyond the physical arguments for play and, like Simply Play with its grounding in the Integral Play Framework expands the thinking about play to the social, emotional and spiritual aspects which occur when at play.

“There is a tension between the self-determined quality of children’s play and an adult-oriented focus on outcomes. Resolving this tension demands care. The potential of play is a consequence of its deep and complex connections with children’s sense of themselves, their competences and the environment around them. Privileging one developmental domain (for instance physical activity) risks undermining others (Lester and Russell 2008). This danger is highlighted in one policy review, which stated, “If we view play primarily as a means to achieve long-term physical, psychological and social benefits we are in danger of losing sight of the essence of play as intrinsically motivated behaviour” (Gleave and Cole-Hamilton 2012)”


Bushes     Pleasure Park Display Board      Trees, Pleasure Park 

2012 saw the launch of Simply Play, a free, play value assessment tool developed through a Knowedge Transfer Partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and Timberplay Ltd. Simply Play is now being taken up and used throughout the UK to evaluate the play potential of any given space and ensure any investment in play has a maximum return in terms of play value.

Recently, Beth Cooper, Creative Play Associate and Project Lead on Simply Play, visited Pleasure Park in Kettering to advise Kettering Borough Council on how to develop a more holistic approach to play. This has now been incorporated into their successful funding bid to improve Pleasure Park.

Beth Cooper explains:-

“In 2012 I visited Kettering in Northamptonshire to undertake a Simply Play assessment of Pleasure Park. We had a solid foundation from the start as Kettering Council have a good grasp of play and a committed and enthusiastic team who are keen and willing to develop play and play opportunities in the local area. This is a very commendable spirit, particularly in the face of the removal of the large scale capital grants”

The park itself was a fairly typical Victorian Park with a large play area clearly defined by a fence. The play area had some pretty standard equipment with the addition of other features like a BMX track, which served as much as a moonscape, a crawling track, a scooter track and later on in the day, as the older children tumbled out of school, a bike track.

The assessment was done on both the designated play area and the park as a whole. In spite of a ‘satisfactory’ play area, Simply Play highlighted that the wider park scored more highly for play value with its additional playability provided through other features such as trees to climb and a flexibility of usage afforded by the space.

Where Simply Play helped the team at Kettering develop their ideas for the future was by supporting them in conceptualising what they were trying to do both within the park and more widely in Kettering, to develop major ‘play spaces’ and not just ‘play areas’. This thinking not only helped them to win the funding applied for, but also was built into the current Green Flag application.”

Dave Lane, of Kettering Borough Council sums up Simply Play’s contribution.

“In terms of supporting the future development of Play in Kettering, Simply Play has come along at the right time and fits with the team looking more holistically at other sites and focussing on the wider play value and play potential of these sites. In addition it fits with moving beyond traditional ‘designated play areas’ to making whole spaces playable.”

For more information contact


Hello and Welcome

Hello to those who have heard about Simply Play, the new Play Value assessment through the grapevine. Welcome to those of you who have read about Simply Play in various articles over the Summer. Thank you to all of you who have been part of the development of Simply Play.

The Simply Play assessment can now be accessed by clicking on the Survey tab above or if you wish it to open in a new window push the Brown Muddy Hand to the right of the screen.

After much testing and development, which can be read about in the History section of the website the Simply Play Assessment has now been released. This on-line version which you are able to access has been developed by members of Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University. Simply Play will send you your results as a chart by email as you reach the end of the 45 questions. We are continuing to work on improving some aspects of its functionality and design so all comments and feedback on your experience of using Simply Play are welcome.

The assessment could take around an hour to undertake depending on your familiarity with both the process and the space you are evaluating.

Content is being added to the website to help support the understanding of the themes in the Simply Play assessment and an understanding of Play.

Thank you for visiting. We hope that you find Simply Play a useful and effective part of your play space development. Feel free to contact us on if you have any questions or queries.

Simply Play – In the Field

Play Value Assessment, planting      Play Value Assessment, Rose      Play Value Assessment, Planting

On 26th April 2012 Simply Play was taken to Hyde Park, London for testing in the field, the play field. Along with a group of well respected and highly knowledgeable experts from the world of play, three playable spaces in Hyde Park were visited and assessed.

 In addition to independent play consultants such as PLAYLINK there were, landscape artchitects, representatives from Kids, Play England, Play Scotland, as well as officers from a number of local authorities and representatives from Royal Parks.

The day was the culmination of 18 months research and modification of the play value assesment tool, Simply Play. With visits to three sites including an area that was playable though not a designated play space the assesment was shown to have versitility and application in a variety of spaces. The site visits were followed by round table discussions to support the refinement of the assessment.

Mark Gladwin, secretary of Yorkshire Play and member of Play England’s Strategic Board commented;

” Simply Play has the potential to expand understanding of what play is about; to foster critical awareness of the shortcomings of many so called playgrounds; and to provoke refelection on how playspaces can be improved.”

Yorkshire Play Newsletter Issue 6

Thanks go to all those who gave up their time to attend as their input and feedback was invaluable in the development of Simply Play.

Simply Play

   Play Value Assessment, Water Play         Play Value Assessment, SandPlay led Assessment, Simple Cardboard Play

After over a year of testing and development Simply Play is available for use. So what is Simply Play?

Simply Play is a simple effective play-led assessment that can be accessed on line here. It is the starting point for successful play space development. With 45 questions to answer, Simply Play gives you a full picture of the play value of any given environment. It identifies clearly the strengths of any given space and highlights the areas which would benefit from development.

This assessment can be undertaken in wild space, school yards and public parks, areas designated specifically for play or those where play occurs regardless. It can be used in space allocated for play area development, existing play areas and can become part of any monitoring or assessment as part of the play offer.

For more information on the development of Simply Play please click here.