National Play Day – 6th August

East Lothian Play Association is keen to promote inclusive play for all ages and is pleased to invite organisations to apply for a small one-off grant to help develop play activities during the week of National Play Day on 6th August 2014. Playday is the national day for play in the UK, traditionally held on the first Wednesday in August. For more information about Playday check out their website

 To help you celebrate Playday ELPA has grants available of up to a max. £200 for each of the cluster areas in East Lothian i.e. Dunbar, Haddington, Musselburgh, Prestonpans, Tranent and North Berwick.

 To apply for the Playday grants please write a short statement including details of your

  • Organisation
  • Contact details – name, address, tel no/ email address
  • Brief summary of when and how you intend to use the funding to celebrate Playday
  • How the Play activity will benefit children:
  • How much you are applying for:
  • Organisation’s bank details:

 Applications to be submitted to Evelyn Tait by Friday 16th May 2014. Please note: Applications received after the closing date will not be considered.

ELPA funding flyer National Play Day 2014 (2)

United Nations stands up for Children’s Right to play

The International Association of Play has released a press statement on a United Nations committee decison


 United Nations adopts in-depth interpretation of ‘forgotten’ children’s rights artticle.

 Article 31 has long been considered “the forgotten article” of the Convention. The General Comment adopted today, however, will right that wrong by clearly defining the responsibilities of governments that are implicit in the article.

The stated objectives of the General Comment are:

a) To enhance understanding of the importance of Article 31 for children’s well-being and development, and for the realisation of other rights in the Convention.

b) To provide interpretation to States parties with regard to the provisions, and consequent obligations, associated with Article 31.

c) To provide guidance on the legislative, judicial, administrative, social and educational measures necessary to ensure its implementation for all children without discrimination and on the basis of equality of opportunity.

For full press release 2013 1 Feb-IPA Press Release-UN Article 31 (2)


“If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.”

Not sure if  I completely agree with the last part of Einsteins equation but how important is his message that Success is a product of work & play. But what do we mean by ‘Play’.

I had heard the phrase ‘heuristic play’ many times without really understanding it. I think I just heard the word play and ignored the word heuristic as something that  had been tagged on to make professionals feel more important about what they do. My background as a psychiatric nurse has perhaps made me a little cynical about fancy titles for simple concepts – as there are a hundred and one different therapies with exotic names, which in practise are little different from each other. The word came up again in a recent discussion about a play strategy for East Lothian. I had to admit my ignorance and asked Maureen Black (East Lothian’s play guru) what it meant  and she gave me the following definition.

heu·ris·tic – from the Greek word eureka meaning discovery

Maybe discovery play would be simpler – but it does describe why play is so powerful for learning and why it is so much fun. It also helps me to understand why somebody like Einstein would include play as an essential part of his formula for success. Discovering the world around you using all of your senses to make sense of it, order it, understand how you can interact with it, and change it. Discovering how the universe worked might not have been child’s play, but without being able to play Einstein might not have made such a success of it.

Another play word I have learn recently is – schema.

At an early years conference I listened to  some staff from a Midlothian Surestart centre talk about how they had taught other staff the princples of heuristic play. They focused on schemas – this is where children exhibit typical behaviours as they play such as transporting, enveloping, enclosing, assembling,  circling, horizontal and vertical displacement. A schema is a pattern of observable behaviour which children display over and over again. This was one of those eureka moment for me as it made sense of my own experience with young children, especially babies and toddlers. What parent has not witnessed a child repeatedly taking an object in and out of another object or a child utterly absorbed in moving things from one place to another an back again. Of course what children are doing as they work through their schemas is discovering their world  and making it understandable  and coherent

I think I have always understoon play as something that is natural for children – and something they need to be able to do to discover how their world works and where they fit into it. Concepts like heuristic play and schemas help me to understand the very complex things that are going on when children play

‘Loose materials & Play’

A small group of staff from East & Midlothian went to visit the schools featured in this short video at the invite of Grounds for Learning. The group included a teacher from Whitecraig Primary, and the team leader for a pre-school centre managed by Midlothian Surestart.. Whitecraig and two Suretart centres are now working with GfL to introduce natural loose materials into the playground. A P1 teacher at Wallyford primary is also working with a local artist to find ways of using different materials in their playground area – this time with an emphasis on recycled materials. Excited to see how these projects develop and hope they prove to be exemplars for other schools and pre-school centres in the use of loose materials for more imaginative play opportunities.

Playing Out

I love this video – communities taking action to make the streets safe and welcoming for kids to play in

The video is one of he resources on a new website for community activists that would like to make it possible for kids to ‘play out ‘

‘Playing out: Activate Street Play in your neighbourhood’

The website promotes the use of local resources and people to encourage safe on street play for local children.  There are a range of
resources to access, including tips for communities to support safe street play.

Play Scotland

The East Lothian Physical Activity & Health Partnership recently  invited Jane Crawford Senior Development Officer for Play Scotland to lead a discussion at the partnership on early years play and the need for a ‘play forum’ in East Lothian.

A lively discussion was held during the meeting and a number of options for better co-ordinating early years play in the county were discussed drawing on best practise from elsewhere. Jane’s input and on-going support will help take the discussion started in the physical activity partnership to other forums.

Jane’s presntation is linked below along with information on the role of Play Scotland

East Lothian, May 2011

Play Scotland Play Scotland Annual Review 2010

‘These are the things that matter to me…’


A group of parents who use voluntary sector services for families of early years children were supported to make a short film about what made a difference for them and their children. The film was made at Stepping Forward a Sure Start centre in Penicuik.

The idea for the video came from conversations that Susan Deacon had with groups of parents in Mid & East Lothian as part of her evidence gathering for her report to the Education Minister.  A previous post  ‘Conversations with Susan’ described the content and impact of the discussion she had with parents. Parents were supported by the Media Co-op to make the video. Many thanks to Shelley for uploading the video to YouTube (I still haven’t mastered that)

We will use the video as part of Support from the Start  ‘civic conversation’ about health and the early years. Its first public viewing will be to East Lothian councillors.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ 

Nursery class at Whitecraig

Although the snow has made life difficult for grown-ups – particularly those that need to travel, it can be an incredible opportunity for play 

Whitecraig primary have been making the most of it – linking it to reading and learning about things like hibernation. The photo above is from the Whitecraig edubuzz page – it truly is a King of Snowmen. 

The Creative Star learning company has produced a resource pack with loads of great ideas for using the snow as a learning tool. 

In the development of Support from the Start and forest school in particular I have had a number of opportunities to talk to teaching staff about why I think regular outdoor play / learning can make a difference for children’s health and well being. Each time I perform a little experiment by asking those present to close their eyes and think about a happy memory from their childhood. After a few moments I ask people to open their eyes and put up their hand if the memory involved being out of doors. So far each time this experiment has resulted in the vast majority (at least 90%) raising their hands. 

 Whether its fear of traffic,  fear of strangers or the attraction of electronic games children seem to be spending more and more time in doors. So its wonderful to see nurseries and schools like Whitecraig taking the opportunity of a playground transformed by snow into a whole new world for play and learning. There are reasons not to play outdoors in snowy conditions – its cold, slippy, wet, it takes time to organise. There a lots of reason for, which could be listed – but I think one overwhelming one  is that it is fun and what is learnt whilst having fun tends to stick. 

If we look back as adults and find that our happy childhood memories are often linked to being outdoors, then surelywe should be providing this for our own children. My experience of schools and nurseries as a parent (in more than one Local Authority area) is that children rarely get to experience natural environments, and many school playgrounds are largely organised for the priorities of adults in the school not the children. 

 Scotland could easily be a nation (like Sweden) where being outdoors and learning in a natural environment is a normal part of the school / nursery timetable – not as currently where it all too often is only a special event / treat. We have some of the most rich, varied and exciting environments in the world – and for most of us its available on our doorsteps. Even the big cities have wonderful spaces (managed but natural) thanks largely to the legacy of those Victorian planners who recognised the benefits to physical and spirtual  health of access to green space. 

All we need is a change of ‘mind set’ – as well as good waterproofs and lots of layers.

Wallyford Support from the Start


Wallyford consultation took place on the 18th May 9am-11.30am at Wallyford Community Centre.  The invitation to participate in the consultation was extended to members of the wider community.  The consultation aimed to engage members of the local community in identifying health inequalities within their area and to get them to identify key health improvements. 


An assortment of health information and information on Support from the Start was also available through information stands and leaflets which participants took the time to read and many took information away.   As an incentive to take part, money off vouchers, for East Lothian Roots and Fruits was given out.


The consultation was very informal being based on discussion and participatory appraisal methods.  This seemed to work really well generating in-depth discussion whilst highlighting community issues and concerns.


Wallyford Support from the Start