“Stay and Play” is an 8-week course for
parents with younger children (up to 5 years).
These days, unlike in the past, most of us parents
are bringing up our children on our own with few
people to turn to.
The course is designed to be fun as well as
providing a place for parents to learn from the
course material and from each other. Parents get
reassurance from other parents.
In the last few years we have found out that the
early years for children are crucial for their
development, so “Stay and Play” aims to encourage
parents with a range of ideas on bringing their
children on in their development.
Young children learn a lot from play and from doing
things with us parents. We will get a lot of ideas
on how children grow, on communication, and the
different things we can do with our children that
will help their development and for us to enjoy
being with our children—we can learn a lot from our
Each session lasts 2 hours. For the first 1¼ we
parents will talk together, while the children are
in their own group. Then everyone will meet up and
there will be a play session for ½ an hour. The
last ¼ hour will be us singing. We hope parents
will try out the ideas at home, and share ideas that
work with other parents.
Although not a specific aim, parents have found the
course helps with the children’s behaviour. Below
is an article we wrote after the first course was
The course aims to:
Share ideas on the importance of play for young
children for their development
Share ideas for play
Build self-confidence in parents
Build parent-child relationships so they can have
more fun together
Build parents listening skills with young children
The programme looks like this:
Week 2----------------------------------Play—how we
parents can help
Week 6----------------------------------Movement is
Week 7----------------------------------Music and
Week 8----------------------------------What have we
Who is the course for?
Any parent with a child under 5 years.
Where do the courses run?
The courses run all over West Lothian, mainly in
Community Centres, although one or two Early Years
Centres are running the course. The course is free,
and transport may be available.
STAY AND PLAY
Play is recognised as an essential to children’s
growth and development. And the role of parents is
clearly vital. But should parents let their
children get on with it? Do everyday activities
count as play opportunities? Is it OK to be “silly”
and play when you are an adult? Did we have enough
opportunities to play when we were children? These
and other factors can get in the way of parents
feeling comfortable in engaging with their children
in play, and learning to have fun together.
This article describes a course called “Stay and
Play” which was delivered to a group of parents in
an effort to address these issues. It was developed
to encourage parents to play more with their
children (aged 0-3 years) and to be more conscious
about the role of the parent in their children’s
Stay and Play
"Stay and Play” runs for 8 weeks, each session
lasting 2 hours. The first hour and 40 minutes is
spent on group work with the parents while the
children are in their creche. For the last 20
minutes there is a play session, where parents get a
chance to try out the ideas with their children. At
the very end, we sing songs. Each week, parents get
a pack with “worksheets”, handouts and suggestions
for things to try at home to do with the topic.
They also get printed versions of the songs we
Input includes group exercises, role-plays and
questions for discussion, and is designed to build
on and “remind” parents about their positive
practices. It depends for ethos on the idea that
parents are experts on their own children, and that
they are more likely to learn from each other, than
from a “professional expert”. There is a high
experiential element to the course, and some
opportunities to reflect on the parents’ own
The aims of the course are: to encourage parents to
see the world more from the child’s point of view—to
become more child centred: to increase parental
awareness of the role parents have in teaching
children about the world. This involves building on
what parents have done and encouraging an increased
consciousness about what they are doing (so they can
do more of it!).
Each parent is given a folder for the course
content, which consists of worksheets (a sort of
“agenda” for the session), ideas for play at home,
and handouts on child development and other aspects
relevant to the topic of the day.
The programme looks like this:
How children learn. Introductions, input on
play and a sharing of experiences of being played
with as a child.
How we parents can help—which looks at
children’s development, and what parents can do to
help this development, focusing on everyday
activities, but also on the benefits of some toys.
Communication (1) which looks at how we
communicate with and acknowledge our children, using
Communication (2) which continues from last
week and adds in a way of playing with children
Encouragement, which looks at how parents can
encourage the children so as to build resilience.
Week 6 Movement
is a must—which looks at how movement encourages
development in children, together with having fun.
It looks at both fine and gross motor development.
Music---looks at how music assists with
development and how we can have fun with children.
What have we learned? This evaluates learning
and looks at what parents might like to do next.
How the course ran
The course was run at Knightsridge Early Years
Centre, (a Nursery School in Livingston), by Sure
Start West Lothian and staff from the Centre.
10 mothers were invited to attend, of whom 8
attended. One parent dropped out after the first
week. Of the remaining 7, attendance was 86%.
Parents were recruited from an area of relatively
high need. 4 of the parents were in contact with
Social Work, while a fifth had a child attending a
psychologist because of severe tantrums.
Some parents wanted help with the behaviour of the
children (tantrums, destructiveness). Others wanted
ideas on occupying their children, and how to divide
their attention between more than one young child.
They wanted to feel more in control, to be able to
shout less, and to find ways of encouraging their
children, and to be able to help children’s fears
better. In summary, parents wanted the behaviour of
the children to change. At the same time, some
parents had clearly reflected on their parenting and
wanted to find different ways of relating to their
The parents’ expectations of a “course” harked back
to memories of their own school days, and they said,
at the end of session 1, that they had expected “a
lecture from some guy”. They had been pleasantly
surprised they had had a chance to talk and share
ideas, that their ideas were valued.
The group gelled well from the start. They joined
in all the experiential exercises and role-plays,
and generated a lot of ideas and support for each
other. There was an expectation that the parents
treat the course as running 7 days a week, not just
on a Thursday afternoon, and parents responded to
this. They all tried the things to do at home,
which were mainly trying out play ideas with their
The play at the end of each session went very well,
and we all sang songs at the end. Play sessions
included playing with “gloop” (cornflower and
water), playdough, making rattles, etc.
Although the play sessions ran for only for the last
20 minutes of each week, they assumed a real
importance for the parents, as it offered ideas for
play and a chance to try out the ideas with their
children. It was very encouraging to hear about how
the past week had gone with play ideas at the start
of each session. It was also encouraging to see the
progress of each child through the course.
Parents participated well, and this reflected their
satisfaction with the course. Some parents had
assumed children knew how to play, while others
realised “how much a child has to learn to do things
we (parents) consider easy”. The exercise, for
instance on dressing, was an eye opener for
parents. They were asked to put on and button a
shirt while wearing gloves. This sort of
experiential work enhanced parental understanding of
the child’s world—that it was not easy to accomplish
tasks which we adults take for granted.
In general parents learned to enjoy spending time
with their children, and this meant they got on
better, so the child could be seen much more
positively. So parents started to see the world
from the children’s point of view, therefore
developing an understanding of the child as a
person. To some parents’ surprise and satisfaction,
this greatly assisted with behaviour issues such as
tantrums, destructiveness, although behaviour
management was not a focus of the course. Parents
seemed to feel more confident, and were conscious
that the development of parent/child relationships
helped a lot.
Parents’ listening skills improved, and all reported
playing regularly with their children, enjoying this
play, and understanding the value of this play for
their children’s development. While parents were
sorely tempted to “take over” doing a puzzle, they
managed to restrain themselves, and thereby learned
more about their children.
There were improvements in parental self-confidence,
patience (so parents were conscious of not shouting
so much), assertive skills, and in an overall
improvement in parental attitude to the children.
In week 8, parents said that they had learned a lot
and that they were very pleased with the things they
had learned, mainly because “we taught ourselves”.
Relationships had improved through more
understanding of the child, so parents were more
patient with their children. For instance, one
parent now saw her child’s behaviour as resulting
from fear (of trying something new, for instance,
due to a lack of confidence) rather than from
defiance, so the mother had learned not to
remonstrate, but to find ways of being encouraging.
In essence, parents could see that playing with the
child gave the child the attention needed, so the
child was happier, and so behaviour improved. Here
parents appreciated their own role in promoting the
relationship through play and doing things with the
Handouts were provided on child development, ideas
for play, and encouraging the child, and parents
reported they had enjoyed having these, as they were
readable and useful and a reference for reminders.
This is a simple course involving discussion, and
experiential exercises on aspects of play, backed by
practical play with the children at the end of each
session. It was fun for the parents and the
facilitators, and the children enjoyed the play as
The course offers opportunities for parents to
challenge their own attitudes to play, and to find
ways to have more fun with their children.
For some parents there were limited opportunities to
play as a child, and this can lead to some
uncertainty about how to play now with their child.
For some a willingness to play with their children
can engender a sort of jealousy of their children
who benefit from play with their parents, which the
parents’ themselves did not get. Yet other parents
take the view that now they are adults, it is
important not to be “silly”, and engage in play.
Finally parents do not always appreciate all the
learning opportunities they are providing anyway for
their children. The course aims to make parents
more conscious about what they are doing as well as
things they can build on from the course.
Results were very positive, both in terms of the
parents’ appreciation of the value of play for
children’s development, and in terms of improvements
in parent child interactions, such that both parent
and child seemed to grow in confidence.
Stay and Play has similar aims to the “Learning
Together”/PEEP courses, but is able to offer a
time-limited learning opportunity that seems to work
well. As such it has a role in the overall delivery
of support services for parents.
John Rogers, Sure Start.
Shirley Keast, Knightsridge Early Years Centre.
Handout document for "Stay And Play"