National Week of Play

children playing ball

National Week of Play logoJoin the Alliance's National Week of Play: 21 - 27 June 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a hugely detrimental impact on children's access to play. 

It has caused their worlds to shrink and restricted their ability to play. Many playgrounds and outdoor recreation areas have been closed, and many children have been denied the opportunities to socialise with their friends and peers. 

Enabling environments in early years settings that once encouraged risk, challenge and exploration were repurposed with the aim of keeping children away from each other. Positive relationships may have been compromised by the need to operate in ‘bubbles’.

The full impact on their health and wellbeing at such a crucial time in their development has yet to be fully understood.

Making sense of these confusing times

As early years educators we know that play is fundamental to a child’s learning and development. Play is how children make sense of the world. It helps them express their feelings, manage emotions and find out about themselves and others. 

Practitioners only need to observe how children are playing together and interacting with their environment to see how the pandemic has affected them. We must not assume that the passage of time will make everything right again.

Some children are still unsure about the rules and are waiting for adult direction before deciding what to play with and how. Play is even more important now as it is the first step in giving them back a sense of control after a confusing time in their lives.

It is through play that children will begin to make sense of what has happened and is still happening. It is through play that children who have been impacted the most will begin to heal and thrive as we look towards better times.

Putting play at the heart of practice

Prioritising play is not about doing anything differently but it is a timely reminder that having freedom and time to play supports development and learning across all areas.

That's why from 21 June the Early Years Alliance is launching a National Week of Play to encourage and inspire early years professionals to ensure that learning through play is at the heart of their practice, and to support parents to discover and explore new play ideas for the home learning environment.

What's going on?

Click on the titles below to see the activities taking place 

Tips, resources and discussions

We will be sharing tips, blogs and videos on play for practitioners and parents throughout the National Week of Play.

Sign up using the form at the bottom of this page to access a Play Week resource pack which includes:

  • Play Week poster for you to display in your setting
  • Play Week support badge for you to use on your website or social media
  • '50 things to do before you're 5' poster 
  • Family Time Tips - quick and easy play activities to share with your families
  • Further summer activities and resources 
  • Event planning guidance 
  • Event planning checklist template 
  • Press release guidance and template
  • MP letter template 
  • MP briefing note
Panel on play

Four early years experts - Helen Moylett, Cathy Nutbrown, Nancy Stewart and Anni McTavish - are going to discuss the importance of play and what the focus of practitioners should be. The discussion will take place and be recorded on Zoom and made available to practitioners.

Online sessions

pricesIn the following week in July, we will be offering four Alliance Spotlight sessions for early years professionals, delivered via Zoom, all on the topic of play.

Sessions cost just £12 for Alliance members and £24 for non-members.

The Characteristics of Play 

Let us consider what play is and look at the characteristics of play. In this interactive session we will explore play based learning and discover more about mindful play, thinking about how to be present when we play with children. As the conversation draws to a close, we ask- what do we think counts as therapeutic play?   

Monday 5 July 6pm -7pm   

Book now


Connecting Through Play  

During this session you will have the opportunity to discuss and think about the long-term benefits, mentally and physically that connecting with children through their play has on a child's learning and development and the relationships with their significant adults. 

This session looks at connecting with children through play, the benefits of connecting with children through play, connecting and communicating and how to share this with parents and carers. 

Wednesday 14 July 10- 11am   

Book now


Rediscovering  Play  

Rediscovering Play - helping grown-ups to reconnect with their innate ability to play 

 We all recognise the importance of play for children, but as grown-ups we tend to overlook our need to play dismissing it as a frivolous and unproductive use of our time in busy and hectic lives. 

This session looks at why grown-ups should still play and how in doing so we can support our children's own play and learning.  

Monday 19 July 6-7 pm

Book now


A FREE Alliance Connect session:

Celebration of Play 

Over the last 15 months children’s freedom to play has changed; their access to outdoors restricted, their play controlled and observed by adults, their social connections with friends reduced and their time to play has competed more than ever with technology. We need to ask ourselves what experiences they have missed out on and now the world is starting to open again how they can celebrate the joy of play once again.

Monday 12 July 6.15 – 7.15pm

Book now

EduCare course

We are currently developing an EduCare course on play. 


If you're interested in taking part in the National Week of Play, please leave us your details below and we'll email you all the resources and activities once they are available.

At the end of the week, we will send you a Certificate of Participation to display in your setting or home.

And if you share your Play Week activities with us then you could end up being featured in Under 5 magazine and on our social media channels!

Sign up for Alliance's National Week of Play