Play Leadership

Study play leadership online. Expand your understanding and knowledge of child development through play and safety in play.

Course Code: VRE101
Fee Code: S1
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Train in Play Leadership

Play leaders are people who create and manage play opportunities. Sometimes play leaders are people who are fulfilling a duel role. They can be parents, teachers, pre school teachers, or nannies, who look after both the play needs, and other needs of children in their care.

Some play leaders are employed specifically to concentrate on managing the play needs of children. They may be an assistant to a teacher or care worker, or they may be employed in a supervised playground, play centre or other facility that focuses on play.

Uninterrupted play is important for a child’s social, physical and mental development; play encourages brain development, stimulates creativity, increases a child’s academic ability, and enhances quality of life through to adulthood. Children who have learnt how to play, will have a more playful and creative approach to life as adults.

This course is relevant to the provision of play opportunities for children, and teenagers.

"A truly cohesive course. Excellent in fact!  Absolutely essential for anyone working in child-care, a play leader at a children's vacation camp or even parents who want to understand more about the importance of play in child development.  This course gives a very in-depth look at a variety of topics which carry tremendous value in understanding children!"  Jade Pollock, former Youth Leader and Teacher. 

Lesson Structure

There are 11 lessons in this course:

  1. Understanding Play
    • Play leadership defined
    • Levels of childhood development
    • Nature or nurture
    • Isolating hereditary characteristics
    • Continuity versus discontinuity
    • Cross sectional and longitudinal studies
    • Reliability of verbal reports
    • Ethics and experiments
    • Play deprivation and juvenile violence
    • Free play
    • Compiling an activities file ( a project that extends across future lessons)
  2. Leadership Skills
    • Scope of skills
    • Career path options
    • Philosophy of play work
    • Qualities of a good leader
    • Leadership communication
    • Leader responsibilities
    • Types of activity
    • What is a good back up plan
    • Hints for leading activities
    • Achievability of activities
    • Challenging the child
    • Community participation
  3. Planning Play Programs
    • Benefits of a structured program
    • Factors to consider in planning choices
    • Issues for effective programming - people, purpose, participation, relevance, flexibility, evaluation
    • Program planning process
    • Types of program
    • Dimensions of a program
    • Participants goals
    • Personal characteristics
    • Ideas
    • Socio-physical context
    • Participants approach to achieving goals
    • Participant behaviour
    • Perceptions of consequences
    • Ideas
  4. Child Development through Play
    • Levels of child development
    • Theories of Learning in Infancy and Early Childhood
    • What is learning
    • Habituation
    • Vicarious learning
    • Classical conditioning
    • Operant conditioning
    • Cognitive development
    • Jean Piaget’s theory
    • Importance of play - Exploratory play, Constructive play, Symbolic play, Pretend play
    • Assimilation and accommodation
    • Socialisation
  5. Play Safety
    • Play versus safety
    • Legal considerations
    • Age and safety
    • Safety in exercise
    • Safety in aerobic activities
    • First aid facilities
    • Oxygen equipment
    • Identifying hazards
    • Basic safety audit for play spaces
    • Pre screening participants
    • Legal liability
    • When is liability a problem
    • Contributory negligence
    • Insurance
    • Inspecting play equipment
  6. Physical Play
    • Manipulating and changing the environment
    • Plant associations
    • Playing with the environment - animals, plants, earth, manufactured things
    • Trailing - sensory trails, cryptic puzzle trails
    • Gardening, animals, collecting, crafts, sports
    • Environmental activities - observing, collecting, aquaria, an antarium, asphalt activity, other examples
    • Organised exercise classes for children
    • Exercise programs for different age groups
    • For intellectually and physically disabled
    • Configurations or patterns of movement
  7. Social Play
    • Significance of social play
    • Influences on social behaviours
    • Benefits of social play
    • Social facilitation
    • Developing social skills
    • Stimulation by social play
    • Impediments to social play
    • Strategies to facilitate social play
    • Social play activities
  8. Adventure Play
    • What is an adventure playground
    • Establishing an adventure playground
    • Playleader duties in an adventure playground
    • Site design
    • Playground facilities for disabled
    • All accessible playgrounds
    • Dedicated playgrounds
    • Liability
  9. Play Apparatus
    • Toys
    • Playground equipment
    • Big toy playgrounds
    • Environmental features
    • Equipment (consumables)
    • Tools
    • Naturally occurring materials for play
    • Painting and paints
  10. Play Activities
    • Scope of activities
    • Crafts - weaving, candle making, bark pictures, mosaics etc
    • Growing crystals
    • Camping
  11. Special Project Planning an after school play program

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • To explain the purpose of play in the cognitive, physical and social development of a child.
  • To determine the skills required to carry out a play leadership role in different situations
  • To develop a plan for a supervised children's play program.
  • To develop a basic understanding of the impact of play upon the psychological development of a child.
  • To determine appropriate measures to take to protect a child's safety when at play, while minimising any interference which might diminish the quality of the play experience.
  • To develop an understanding of options for physical play activities, including games and sports, in a supervised play program.
  • To develop an understanding of options for social play activities, in a supervised play program.
  • To develop a basic ability to plan, establish and manage a supervised adventure
  • To develop an ability to evaluate a range of different play apparatus, including playground structures, toys, sports equipment, commenting on quality, safety features, appropriate applications and cost benefit.
  • To broaden your scope of opportunities that can be offered for children to play, appropriate to a wide range of different situations.


While free play is a very important part of the childhood experience, it is not always possible or desirable that children are just left to play when, where and how they wish. Sometimes, their situation does not encourage or support free play. Sometimes, lack of social skills, shyness, cultural differences or other factors can limit the child’s ability to initiate play or to interact in a relaxed and enjoyable manner with other children. Often, working parents rely on supervised programs to provide safe and enjoyable care after school hours or during holidays. 

Play programs can take a variety of forms. Some can be loosely program, providing resources and opportunities for free play in a supervised and contained situation. Others can involve structured play activities. Structure is not necessarily an impediment to play, but it must be carefully planned and managed to avoid losing the vital ‘play’ aspects of intrinsic motivation, optimal arousal and control.

Aside from the benefits of structure and predictability offered by play programs, there are other important benefits, some of which are listed below.

  • A degree of structure can introduce children to play options that they might not otherwise have considered.

  • A program can provide a range of stimuli and experiences for the child

  • A program can increase children’s opportunities for socialising with others of the same or other age groups

  • A program can make it easier for children to participate in group activities

  • A program can provide support for those children who need it, when they need it

  • A well-designed program can improve inclusiveness by providing a range of activities that meet different children’s needs

  • Programs can provide an adult presence that can be very reassuring to young children, and agreeable to older children (who have been shown to seek out responsive adults for conversation)

  • And very important, a program, if properly managed, can decrease the likelihood of anti-social, bullying or excluding behaviours (such as not allowing another child to join in or to even watch).


A recreation program includes everything that happens within a group engaged together in a recreational activity or series of activities, active or passive".

When planning a recreation program, the following basic factors should form your planning:

  1. The importance of creativity and discovery
  2.  Achievement of a degree of mastery over oneself and ones environment
  3.  Achievement and satisfaction in participation
  4.  Pleasure and enjoyment of oneself and fulfilment through group social encounters.

Learn more -Tap into OUR experience
Connect with a tutor. We have a long history of involvement in the field of play leadership, beginning with our principal John Mason who trained holiday play leaders in the 1970's for the Victorian Dept. of Sport and Recreation, and for a period was the Australian representative for the International Play Association. Many others, including current staff, have worked in the field of play, and we are happy to give you some insights into the discipline of play leadership.
ACS is an Organisational Member of the Association for Coaching (UK).
ACS is an Organisational Member of the Association for Coaching (UK).
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Adriana Fraser

Freelance writer, businesswoman, educator and consultant for over 30 years. Adriana has written extensively for magazines including free living publications -Grass Roots and Home Grown; and has authored or co authored many books ranging from a biography to books on business and gardening. She holds formal qualifications in education, child care and horticulture and has worked with ACS Distance Education since the mid 1990's.

Jade Sciascia

Biologist, Business Coordinator, Government Environmental Dept, Secondary School teacher (Biology); Recruitment Consultant, Senior Supervisor in Youth Welfare, Horse Riding Instructor (part-completed) and Boarding Kennel Manager.
Jade has a B.Sc.Biol, Dip.Professional Education, Cert IV TESOL, Cert Food Hygiene.

John Mason

Writer, Manager, Teacher and Businessman with over 40 years interenational experience covering Education, Publishing, Leisure Management, Education, and Horticulture. He has extensive experience both as a public servant, and as a small business owner.
John is a well respected member of many professional associations, and author of over seventy books and of over two thousand magazine articles.

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