Category: Play is the Way

Play is the Way- tips and advice for those new to play pedagogy 2

Check out the second of our our blogs for anyone starting out with play pedagogy for the first time, from those who’ve been there before.  This time advice from Frances McMahon who has recently joined the ELC cnetral team after teaching in P1.



Being a Primary 1 teacher is incredibly rewarding but also exhausting! My number one tip for the beginning of primary one is just to relax and use the first few weeks to focus on getting to know the children. There will be plenty of time for phonics, so this time is best spent making the children feel happy and secure in their new environment by providing lots of undisturbed time for play. Establishing routines early on will also make things easier, as will building in lots of time for tidying and for zipping up 25 jackets!



I like to use the first few weeks to really get to know the children individually. A play-based environment is perfect for getting to know each child as you can observe and interact with them during play.  Through their play I always learn so much about what the children already know, what they are interested in and what motivates them. I like to note down what I’ve learned about each child in a table as it helps me build a better picture of who they are as an individual and a learner. I make notes about what I’ve learned about their family, their interests, their friendship groups as well as things like if they can write their name, if they have 1-1 correspondence when counting etc. All this information helps me build a more meaningful relationship with the child as I can talk to them about things that are relevant to them and that they are interested in. I can also use this information to adapt the environment to promote and develop their learning further.


It is also useful to establish routines early on so children can be confident and independent with things like putting their bags/jacket away in the morning and going to the toilet. It also helps to have all the resources labelled and easily accessible to the children so they can be responsible for bringing out resources on their own and tidying them away.





Creating a nurturing environment based on strong and meaningful relationships is always my main priority as children won’t always remember the order you taught them phonics, but they will always remember how you made them feel 😊.



Play is the Way 2020-2021 Update

As we approach the end of a another school year the time has come to look back and reflect on our successes and plans for the future.  What a year it has been!  Despite the challenges of 2020-2021 Falkirk’s ELC practitioners and early primary teachers have again made Falkirk extremely proud with their commitment and passion to driving forwards improvements in play pedagogy.  Below are just a few updates and highlights.

New Support Materials Available

The central early learning team have continued to develop support materials to aid teams and practitioners to develop their own play pedagogy and practice.  This year two new resources have been added to our support materials.

Play is the Way:Getting to where we want to be

In May, we launched a draft of Play is the Way: Getting to where we want to be audit toolkit.  Primary Schools and ELC settings are invited to use this self-evaluation tool to identify where they are now and what needs to happen next. The tool lists a series of features which are designed to help senior leaders and staff teams reflect upon their practice, identify improvement actions and choose the most appropriate support to help them achieve these.  A copy of the audit tool can be found in the self evaluation document store on the Leadership and Management page of the Falkirk Early Learning Glow SharePoint.

Play is the Way: Introduction for families

Our central team have also produced materials to support settings share the rationale behind Play is the Way with families and give examples of what this might look like in practice, particularly in P1 classrooms.  These materials are available as a Sway which can be shared directly with families or as a PowerPoint and accompanying transcript which settings can use to design and deliver their own workshops for families.

A variety of engaging and useful documents have also been created by Falkirk’s Early Years Pedagogues to share some of the key messages from Realising the Ambition: Being Me with families.

All materials are available in the Play is the Way document store on the Falkirk Initiatives and Approaches page of the Falkirk Early Learning Glow SharePoint.


Impact of 2020-2021 professional learning opportunities

More than 200 staff members participated in authority run professional learning opportunities about play pedagogy and have been using their learning to improve provision and outcomes for our youngest children this year.

52 P1 and P2 teachers completed a short course with Professor Deirdre Grogan from Strathclyde University to help them embed high quality Play pedagogy in practice in their classrooms.


100 ELC practitioners took part in a one-off session with Deirdre where they explored high quality Documentation and Provocations. 



76 ELC practitioners, P1, P2 and P3 teachers along with early level senior leaders took part in a facilitated team enquiry project supported by online training modules from educational consultant Kym Scott.


The projects aimed to provide smoother pedagogical transitions for children as they move from one stage to the next whilst using high quality play and playful teaching to improve children’s outcomes in early literacy and maths.

99% evaluations returned stated that the project had met these aims. There was also a significant increase in practitioners’ confidence in the delivery of developmentally appropriate early literacy and maths learning experiences for young children.  This Sway gives a more detailed report of the projects for those who wish to find out more.


What’s coming up in 2021-2022?

  • A feedback session will be held on 8th September 2021 where interested parties can share how they have used the Play is the Way: Getting to where we want to be audit toolkit so far and suggest any improvements for the final draft which will be published by October 2021.
  • The inspiring, Professor Deirdre Grogan will be back supporting improvements to play pedagogy by delivering:
      • Transitioning into Play is the Way.  A 4 part course where Deirdre will support staff teams to develop their vision and rationale for play as well as increase knowledge and understanding about how young children learn and how this can be supported in practice through child-centred play pedagogy.  This course will be repeated with cohort 1 running September to December 2021 and cohort 2 running January to March 2022.
      • Embedding Play is the Way – The Child’s CurriculumA two-part course for P1 and P2 class teachers where Deirdre will explore how to effectively plan, teach, assess and document high-quality child-initiated learning.
  • There will be another chance for settings to take part in a facilitated team practitioner enquiry project with the fantastic Kym Scott. Further details about this can be found in the Connecting Play Across the Early Level project proposal.
  • Our live Play Pedagogy Network sessions will get back up and running again next year with a focus on sustaining play is the way and securing children’s progress through high quality learning, teaching and assessment.

All our professional learning courses are available on Falkirk’s CPD manager now. Sign up quickly to make sure you don’t miss out on these great opportunities.



Falkirk Families Play is the Way

How will we play today?

The Falkirk early learning central team and Falkirk early years pedagogues are working to produce a series of posters to support families in providing a range of high quality play, playful and real life learning experiences for their children, at home.

The experiences described in each poster reflect many of the high quality experiences children regularly have the opportunity to  access when attending Falkirk’s early learning and childcare settings.  Each poster will provide key information about the experience and the learning it supports; offer tips and ideas or provide external links to these and offer advice about the adult role and high quality interactions during the experience.


Each poster will also have a blank space left on it to allow each setting to personalise it with your own ideas, in your own voice.  Practitioners and teams are invited to use this blank space to share an example of what the experience looks like in their own setting- e.g. photo, link to a video, audio clip, etc.  This will help to make a bridge between children’s learning at home and in the setting and help children to make connections in their learning.

Once they have personalised the poster, ELC teams should then decide how and when to share these with their families to support family learning through playful and real-life experiences.

On Fridays we will upload a batch of posters to our Glow page. Details of themes are within the Family Learning Posters overview sent to leadership teams earlier last week.

Falkirk Family Posters can be found in the Parental Engagement and Family learning section of the Falkirk Early Learning Glow Sharepoint

If you will be using Twitter to share the posters, please use hashtags: #FalkirkForFamilies #WeePlayFalkirk #PlayAtHome

Note: Once you have personalised your poster make sure you “export” this into PDF format so families can access the links to interesting videos, experiences and further information. To do this go to FILE-EXPORT-CREATE PDF.


New Loose Parts Toolkit 2019 Edition

I know many of you have been keenly awaiting the publication of the Loose Parts Toolkit 2019. Find it here

I am especially pleased to be recommending the toolkit to you due to the emphasis in the document on the role of the adult, which is one of our big priorities this session. Chapter 3 is a must read.

I’d love to read your comments about the document and would be grateful for any advice /support for others you’d like to share. Read more

Block Play – Block Building in the Early Years

** This learning resource is available on the National Improvement Hub
In Falkirk we can use this resource to support reflective practice and to challenge our thinking as to what makes effective learning environments for the promotion of creativity, curiosity and inquiry; and to identify next steps.
How to use this Learning and assessment resource to improve practice?

The resource can be used by individuals and groups of practitioners to support professional learning to develop understanding and support practice in relation to block play.

Links have been made throughout to theories of early learning that support the importance of block play. Links to further reading have been provided to deepen knowledge and understanding.

The resource outlines the different stages of block play and how this relates to children’s development and learning





Bringing More Play into the School Day

Play Scotland have created a new toolkit

“Play is key to raising attainment”
Scottish Government

Play Scotland Toolkit

Play Scotland’s Play Types Toolkit is for schools and education professionals, and others working with children in various settings.

Playing is an integral part of children’s day in many educational and childcare settings.  Children play before the bell goes in the morning; at playtime and lunchtime; and after school ends.  Increasingly, playing is part of class time across Scotland too.  Falkirk Council staff an use this resource to help recognise the interconnections between playing, learning, growing, developing, being healthy and being happy.

Who is the Toolkit for?

The Play Types Toolkit is intended for schools and education professionals though we are sure people in other settings will also find it useful.

The aim is to highlight the range of types of play children experience, their vital contribution to learning and development, and to make integration of play into the curriculum simpler.

What do we mean by play types?

Play types can simply be described as the different behaviors we can see when children are playing.

This toolkit uses the play types from play theorist Bob Hughes’ Play Types – Speculations and Possibilities in which he explains that ‘each play type is both distinctly and subtly different from the others.  It is useful to be able to recognise them since engaging in each one is a necessary conrollary for a child’s healthy development.’

Falkirk Opens Doors to Play Conference

Play is the Way Conference for Falkirk’s Practitioners Saturday, 2 June

It was fantastic to see so many dedicated practitoners demonstrating their passion for developing play pedagogy across Falkirk.

The conference was planned to support practitioners in taking forward a developmentally appropriate approach with children at the early stages of their learning by offering insight into current thinking exemplifying emerging practice in high quality play -based learning.

Those who attended, heard from a range of inspirational speakers from both within and outwith the aurthority.

Use your Falkirk Glow account to access confernce presentations and infomation using the link below.

Conference presentations

New Support for Leaders of Early Learning in Falkirk

On December 5th 2017, we held our first Early Learning Leadership Forum in Camelon Education Centre.  This event was the first of its kind in Falkirk and it was great to see managers from all of our different EYCC settings coming together to discuss delivering the ambition for all of Falkirk’s bairns.

Falkirk Council and our private partner employees can access the Powerpoint and handout materials on our early years Glow page (Please note, you will need your Glow login details to access these materials).

Loose Parts Play

The Early Years Curriculum team are aware that many of Falkirk’s EYC settings have been or currently are focusing on developing their use loose parts as part of their provision. Inspiring Scotland have produced a toolkit which we would encourage practitioners within these settings to use to reflect on their provision of loose parts play. The Loose Parts Play toolkit was produced to support people working with children and young people across all age ranges and settings. It aims:
• To raise awareness of the value of loose parts to children’s play
• To provide practical guidance about loose parts play to those who work with children and young people of all ages
• To advocate the use of loose parts as an approach to developing play opportunities at home, school and in the community.

My World Outdoors

In Falkirk, we recognise that spending time outdoors and particularly in natural environments is good for all of us and especially for children. The Care Inspectorate have produced My World Outdoors with the aim of making a positive contribution to the further development of outdoor play as part of all early learning and childcare in Scotland.  Falkirk Council expect all it’s early years and childcare centres and practitioners to be providing high quality experiences in the outdoors and to be using this resource to understand Care Inspectorate expectations regarding risk-benefit assessment processes.  This resource should also be used to look outwards at the examples of good practice provided in this resource and to use these as a basis of reflection on the quality of outdoor play experiences practitioners provide in their own setting.

My World Outdoors