About PARS Playwork Practice

What is PARS playwork practice?

PARS playwork is an alternative approach to working with children which is grounded in the playwork tradition. Playwork was invented by the UK adventure playground pioneers just after the Second World War. It is now recognised as a distinct profession in the UK and increasingly used in many countries around the world. PARS is a model of playwork practice which was developed by Dr Shelly Newstead from her doctoral research into the philosophy, theory and practices of the adventure playground pioneers (Newstead, 2016). PARS is the first holistic model to describe and define professional playwork practice. The PARS model of playwork practice enables adults working in any setting where children spend their leisure time to articulate, develop and evaluate their playwork practice.

The PARS model for me really is revolutionary. However, the PARS model alone is not the secret, it is the methods and theories that make its practical application easy and effective in real life scenarios for play observers. The influence this will have on my own practice will be considerable and something I will take with me for the foreseeable future.

What is the aim of PARS Playwork Practice?

Unlike traditional playwork which focusses on the need for adults to provide and facilitate play for children (PPSG, 2005), the aim of PARS playwork practice is to compensate children for the presence of adults in their time and space whenever possible, so that children can have more time to do what matters to them from their own perspectives. Adopting a PARS approach means prioritising children’s ideas and interests over adult organised and directed activities. The PARS model of playwork practice helps adults to make decisions about when their involvement is really necessary and when to leave children to their own devices. Research has found that adults who use PARS playwork practice are less likely to intervene in children’s self-directed activities and are more open to children’s risk-taking behaviours (Chan et al, 2020).

The PARS model gives me some relaxation, because I now have found a way of working with children which fits me. In the past, I listened to others, followed others, in their way of working with children. I’m glad I feel myself no longer obligated to entertain children with hand puppets, crazy voices, to run in the wood pretending I’m a monster, to imitate a bouncing Freek Vonk to enthuse the children or behave like a boring teacher and tell the children what they see and what it is.

Who can use PARS Playwork Practice?

PARS playwork practice can be used by practitioners working in any setting where children spend their leisure time. PARS practitioners work in a diverse range of supervised settings, from parks to playschemes, schools to domestic refuges and hospitals to adventure playgrounds around the world, including Taiwan, New Zealand, America, mainland China, France, Brazil, Belgium, South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Canada, The Netherlands, Hong Kong and UK. Our international team of PARS Licensed Trainers deliver a wide range of PARS training and qualifications in several different languages. Qualified PARS practitioners now work in 13 different countries/regions around the world.

After the PARS course, I see children can not only play, but also innovate without teaching. The PARS course made me give up my previous ideas towards children’s play. I’ll keep practicing to real play and real happiness to the kids.

How can I find out more?

To find out if PARS playwork practice is for you, you can up to our short introductory PPP1 course, called POP when it is delivered online and PARS Practicals for face-to-face training. POP courses are run throughout the year to suit different time zones and in different languages.

Or if you think that PARS sounds just like what you need, why not jump straight in to our NCFE-accredited PPP2 Customised Qualification? No previous knowledge of PARS or playwork is required and you will receive a certificate of achievement from NCFE, one of the UK’s leading Awarding Bodies for playwork, on successful completion of your assessment. PARS Customised Qualifications are also available at levels 3 and 4.


Visit our PARS LearnWorlds site to find local and accredited PARS courses suitable for you!

Can I have my whole team trained or qualified in PARS?

Absolutely – PARS practitioners often tell us that a whole-setting PARS approach is really effective. Our PARS Licensed Trainers provide in-house training, Customised Qualifications and mentoring and coaching for services and organisations which want to become PARS settings. We work closely with each individual setting to embed PARS philosophy, theory and practice across your team. Do get in touch and tell us how we can help!

How can I introduce PARS locally?

With increasing interest in PARS internationally, we are always keen to welcome experienced trainers to our PARS Licensed Trainer team! If you are interested in finding out more about delivering PARS training in your area, please read our information for new trainers here and fill in the application form – we look forward to hearing from you!

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