The International Playwork Census

The International Playwork Census – a new global research project to find out who is involved in playwork and what that means.

In the 2011 UK census, some 53,000 people declared their job role as ‘playworker’. However, the UK playwork field has lacked any sustained central or membership body since its inception just after the Second World War, and there is still no centralised register of those involved in the playwork profession. Very little is therefore known about the UK playwork workforce in terms of demographic data, and there has been no investigation into what constitutes the playwork field. Furthermore, playwork is now used in many different countries around the world, and there is no comprehensive data available as to where playwork is being used and to what extent there is an international playwork workforce. This study aims to collect extensive data about playwork from playworkers and people who use a playwork approach in their work anywhere in the world.

Dr Pete King (Swansea University) and Dr Shelly Newstead (Common Threads Publications Ltd) are currently undertaking this research, which has been approved by the Research Ethics Committee, College of Human and Health Science at Swansea University. Thank you to everybody who took part in the survey from 19 different countries. We are now in the process of analysing the data from 19 different countries and have already published one paper from this study.

If you want to discuss any aspects of the research, you can email Pete at or telephone+44 1792 602314.



Journal articles from the International Playwork Census


Shelly Newstead & Pete King (2021) What Is the Purpose of Playwork?, Child Care in Practice, 

DOI: 10.1080/13575279.2021.1958752


The Play Cycle Project

The Play Cycle 20 years on

In 1998, Gordon Sturrock and Perry Else presented a paper at the IPA USA International Play Conference in Colorado. The paper was titled ‘The playground as therapeutic space: playwork as healing’, later referred to as ‘The Colorado Paper’ and introduced the Play Cycle to playwork practice. In the last twenty years, elements of the Play Cycle (such as ‘play cues’, ‘play return’, ‘play frame’ and ‘annihilation’) have entered into common use within the playwork sector, and appears in training and education, text books and underpins professional playwork practice. The aim of this research was to investigate understandings and applications of the Play Cycle and whether it has influenced playwork and childcare practice over the last 20 years.


This research was conducted by Dr Pete King from Swansea University and Dr Shelly Newstead. Read about the findings from the research in the journal articles below and the Routledge Advances in Playwork Research book,
The Play Cycle: Theory, Research and Application.


For more details about the study, please contact Pete at or 01792 602 314.

For more information about the original Play Cycle, read Therapeutic Reader One, which includes ‘The Colorado Paper’.

Journal articles from the Play Cycle study

If you are in the UK and do not have access to journals through an educational institution, try the Access to Research scheme available in public libraries.

King, P. & Newstead, S. (2019) Childcare Worker’s Understanding of the Play Cycle: can a focus on ‘process not product’ contribute to quality childcare experiences? Child Care in Practice

King, P. & Newstead, S. (2020) Re-defining the Play Cycle: An empirical study of playworkers’ understanding of playwork theory. Journal of Early Childhood Research 18, 99-111.

King, P. & Newstead, S. (2019) Understanding the adult role in the Play Cycle – an empirical study. Child Care in Practice

​King, P. & Newstead, S. (2020) Demographic data and barriers to professionalisation in playwork Journal of Vocational Education & Training

International Journal of Playwork Practice

IJPP aims to advance playwork research and practice by providing the first ever interdisciplinary platform for the publication and dissemination of scholarship relevant to playwork practice. The journal bridges the playwork theory-practice divide by facilitating practitioner access to research relevant to their practice, and enables researchers interested in ‘playwork’ to access a hitherto inaccessible field of practice and its literature.


International Journal of Playwork Practice is run by an international Board of playwork scholars and academics from other disciplines with an interest in playwork. For more information about the journal, please sign up to the IJPP mailing list. To submit an article, please read our Guidelines for Authors  and submit your article through the IJPP website.


To purchase back copies of the first seven issues of International Journal of Playwork Practice, please click here.

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