Simply Play

Free assessment tool hopes to improve children’s play opportunities
High quality, effective design of playable spaces is benefitted by being based on a solid foundation of play theory, knowledge, and understanding of what motivates children to play. It would be unrealistic to assume all practicing Landscape Architects already have a deep understanding of Play, but there are a growing number of inspirational playspaces which provide high play value, numerous play possibilities and are enriched environments for play. Conversely there are also many less successful playspaces, often underused and neglected within the community. From a child’s perspective there is little sadder than the promise of a new playground which ultimately fails to provide the flexibility of use and richness for play that they really need. How can this wasted opportunity be prevented? Aside from returning to study and focussing on play as a theoretical discipline, how can Landscape Architects continue to better understand the needs of the children and ensure that these are addressed within their design?
Simply Play is a freely available play assessment tool created to support the development of better playspaces. Beth Cooper, Creative Play Associate has facilitated the development of this tool as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and Timberplay. She comments on the tool:-
“There are assessments available which seek to support the design and evaluation of playable spaces, frequently these are focused on specific aspects of play space development; location, safety, and frequently the provision for physical play but there is more to play than just the physical. These are undoubtedly very important factors, but they are missing the primary purpose of a play space, Play. The partnership sought to provide a resource that supported playground developers in understanding the essence of what makes a successful play area – Play Value.”
Play Value is defined by Simply Play as the opportunities offered by an object, exchange, experience or environment for an individual or groups to immerse themselves in Play. Simply Play offers a means by which to evaluate this not merely by a score attributed because of the amount of play equipment within the site, but as an assessment of the value of the available play opportunities within any given site. Play value can be found in any location, and needn’t be confined to only ‘designated’ play spaces. You only need to look at a child playing on the beach to recognise the rich opportunities for play this location offers.
“When looking at designing a play area it is very easy to just focus on equipment, do we have a slide? Do we have a swing? Do we have opportunities to spin? But other elements can be equally, if not more important. Landform is a key element to any successful play space, mounds and small paths, swishing grasses and trees with low level branches deliver play value in spades. Simply Play has been developed to ensure that all aspects of play potential are assessed. The results should serve as an effective signpost, indicating what areas need to be improved and how to make the most of limited budgets to ensure that all investments significantly enhance the play value within the site.”
Simply Play is available via the Simply Play website,, where the survey, consisting of 45 questions, can be completed online. For further information on Simply Play, or to book a consultation with Creative Play Associate Beth Cooper
Tel 0114 282 3474

Scroll to Top