15 Apr
Play without Playgrounds
Posted by client_admin
By Jeni Wilson

Play comes naturally

Remember play comes naturally to children. They want to play and are more than capable of entertaining themselves, sometimes for hours on end. It may come as a surprise, relief or disappointment that children can entertain themselves with minimal or no input from you. They CAN play without Playgrounds!

Observe Children

Children are imaginative, curious and are problem solvers. In fact, we can be led by their ideas. By sitting back and noticing what children are doing and saying during play, we can find out what’s going on for them, and their perspective on how the world works. We get invaluable insights into what they view as their place in the world and their questions about how things work.

During play children often get to express their ideas and needs, without adult judgement and direction. They may be frustrated, angry, sad, stressed or joyous. Play is therapeutic and it is personalised when directed by children. Cat Sewell, (Play expert), says categorically – “you do not need to entertain them”. 

However, adults can ‘be there’, just not all the time.  Adults can be back-seat drivers, show interest and ask questions. You’ll know when your ‘interested’ becomes interference. When their ideas and play become yours they have lost the ownership that drives their play. See types of play.

Play without playgroundsLoose Parts for all

But fear not if you can’t get to a playground. Fixed playgrounds can be limiting.  Play in nature and with different odds and ends. This type of loose parts play has endless possibilities and a myriad of benefits. See Loose Parts article for ideas on materials. Student or child centred play works for multi-ability, multicultural and multi-age groups. It is non-gendered and non-themed. Loose parts play is suitable for every single child on this planet. All children can use and adapt loose parts according to their ability. They don’t have to be at a particular level of education, they don’t have to be at the same level as others playing, and they can have success. Children can play without playgrounds.

Examples of loose parts:

A pile of boxes, some fabric, a yoghurt container and a wheel off a broken toy could be a scarecrow. You’ve always wanted a scarecrow…but it’s better as a train if that’s what children decide. It’ll be more fulfilling for them, build their confidence, keep them focussed longer and create an intrinsic urge for them to solve their own problem. This is student voice and agency at its best.

Nüdel Kart

Have a look at the videos by the creators of Nüdel Kart. This extraordinary resource includes more than 200 loose parts that children can manipulate, build and play with. Nüdel Kart can be used in many settings, indoors and outdoors. It works across age groups from 3 yrs to 12 yrs and beyond, is not gender or culture specific and is highly supportive to people of all abilities. This resource can be used over and over again because of the unlimited possibilities. Nüdel Kart links seamlessly to world-wide educational priorities. 

Still not sure about play being led by children? 

Take a few minutes to sit back and watch your child/student at play and get an insight into the power and creativity of a child’s brain. 

You can find out more about Nüdel Kart here.

Self directed learning through play using a Nüdel Kart


Brown, K. (2014) What is the Purpose of Play?

Centre for Evidence and Implementation (2019). Nudel KART: encouraging play with children. (Developed for Playground Ideas). Melbourne, Australia.

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, ; and the Committee on Communications and ; and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health Pediatrics January 2007,  119 (1) 182-191; DOI:

Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nudel Kart Teacher Manual.

Sewell, C. in Anna Kelsey-Sugg with Erica Vowels for Life Matters (2020) Stuck inside with the kids during the coronavirus pandemic? Here are some ideas for creative play. ABC Radio National.