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PACEY Power of Play conference

The Power of Play: ideas, inspiration and insights

conference superheroesOn Saturday 16th May the PACEY conference was held in London, providing a fun day full of workshops, exhibitors and the superhero selfie!

Childcare and early years professionals enjoyed a day of insightful and thought-provoking content based around our theme of the power of play.

For those that attended, and those that missed it, we’ve put together a summary of the wonderful workshops and learning opportunities the conference gave everyone.

Save the date - come to the next conference in York

The day began with a welcoming opening speech from PACEY chief executive Liz Bayram, highlighting the evidence from our recent survey that revealed childcare professionals wished for more opportunities to let children play freely and reduce structured learning.  

Penny Tassoni: Rainbow shades of play

Next up was a colourful address from PACEY President and childcare expert Penny Tassoni as she delivered her keynote speech: Rainbow shades of play. Some important messages came out of her speech including how we should see play as something that comes in many colours/shades, not just one. Penny also talked about the need to be thoughtful about how individual children need to play and their needs on that particular day.

Her honest, warm and experienced approach was well received by the delegates. Even her mention of cutting the hair off of her Barbie dolls! Did you ever do that?

“It was brilliant! Penny says things we think, but don’t say.” Jacqueline White.

The day continued with two morning workshops delivered by Ben Tawil, Senior Lecturer in Childhood and Family Studies, specialising in play; and Julia Sudbury, PACEY Associate.

Ben Tawil: Play: The importance of the seemingly frivolous

jofli bears at the conferenceBen argued against a prevailing view that play needs to ‘achieve’ something: he called this an instrumental view of play. Free, undirected play in particular is seen as frivolous because it isn’t producing or leading to anything tangible. However Ben sees play as an end in itself.

He went on to talk about how free play is essential to children’s overall development. It’s not possible to always identify what play ‘does’ because children don’t develop in clear stages: they grow in different ways and at different speeds.

The workshop looked at how their free play changes according to their age and individual stage of development. Ben covered how free play is a vital part of children’s emotional physical and intellectual growth because play uses, and develops, every part of a child’s body and mind.

“I found Ben’s talk so inspiring. Having too much structure takes away the ‘playness’ of play. He talked about children’s need for private play. I used to have a ‘quiet area’ which was a space under the stairs with drapes and little lights to let the children have some quiet time away from adult eyes.” Pip Chambers.

Julia Sudbury: Superheroes to the rescue!

A Power of Play conference wouldn’t be complete without a super superhero workshop, and PACEY Associate Julia Sudbury delivered just that.

Promoting an understanding and guidance on the value of superhero play, her workshop was well received by the empowered delegates.

Julia allowed delegates to develop a better understanding of this type of activity; reassuring everyone that although many might worry that superhero play might create chaos, it in fact holds loads of fantastic benefits. It gives children the power and independence that they simply don’t have in a world ruled by leaders and parents; helping them feel brave, fearless and in control of the world.

Julia emphasised the importance of expanding superhero play to meet the interests of the child. It’s not just the popular superheroes we need to remember. It’s about thinking of those characters they can relate to and enjoy, from Fireman Sam to Dora the Explorer or one of the Frozen characters.

Delegates took part in a group activity where they had to use a superhero and then link to the different areas of learning.

Advice surgery, exhibitors and networking

conference volunteersThe conference also included the opportunity for delegates to attend an advice surgery with associates, the chance to network with other childcare professionals, volunteers to meet with Liz Bayram and delegates to browse the exhibits that included:

  • Clickety books
  • Cosy
  • Creative Steps
  • Fundamentally children
  • Hodder Education
  • Kompan
  • PACEY Legal Line (Composite Legal Expenses)
  • Sense Toys
  • Smart Start Club
  • YPO

After a delicious lunch the delegates attended an address from Gill Jones, Deputy Director of Early Education at Ofsted.

Gill Jones, Deputy Director of Early Education at Ofsted

Delegates were given the opportunity to hear from and put their questions to Gill Jones. She began with a presentation that looked more closely at the Common Inspection Framework and British Values before taking questions from the room.

The afternoon workshops from Dr Amanda Gummer of Fundamentally Children and research psychologist specialising in child development or Dr Pam Jarvis, Senior Lecturer at Leeds Trinity University.

Dr Amanda Gummer: Encouraging playful families/habits

Dr Gummer conference workshopThis workshop delivered by Dr Amanda Gummer was all about encouraging playful families and habit: a win-win for children and professionals.

Dr Gummer looked at the EYFS learning outcomes and how these can be delivered through playful toys, technology and experiences in your setting.

She touched on how technology is often demonised, however it can be personalised and recordable with many values whilst highlighting how this should be rationed as part of balanced play.  

Dr Gummer allowed the childcare professionals a chance to reflect on their practice and note how they can translate her recommendations into their practice.

Dr Pam Jarvis: Play in the early years, learning for life

Pam talked about her concern that children were exposed to too many rules and restrictions. Too much “judgement by inspection” via the EYFS can lead to box-ticking and children being pushed into certain play activities which prevent them developing at their own pace.

She looked at make-believe play and the importance of children’s open-ended narratives. Make-believe play involves a huge amount of negotiation between children, as well as allowing them to collaborate, compete and communicate. Developing through free play is not just a human trait, it’s something we have in common with all mammals. Pam also raised the “Save childhood” campaign and the “Too much too soon” campaign.

“I enjoyed the talk. It’s nice to feel that someone feels the same way as you [about the restriction to free play]. I don’t feel it as a childminder, but I feel it as a mum.”

Sally Harvey

Andy Cope: The Art of being Brilliant

andy cope conferenceThe day ended with an uplifting closing session with happiness expert Andy Cope. He had the room giggling, cheering and smiling with his enlightening talk about the Art of Being Brilliant. Here at PACEY we believe each and every one of our members is brilliant and we wanted you to feel that too.

Inspired by our power of play conference? We have a new conference coming up in York on 7 November, Be happy, be healthy: Supporting wellbeing in the early years. A fantastic opportunity to explore ways to help keep you and your practice healthy, as well as focusing on your integral role of helping to keep children happy. We'll be sharing details of the conference very soon.

Members can download all slides and conference resources from the day in MyPACEY now.

Finally we would just like to thank everyone who attended our conference and hope you enjoyed your experience.

“Play is so important – it’s development. Life would be very boring without play. [I thought it was] a brilliant conference – so much fitted into one day”. Rachel Fullelove

Save the date!

Event - PACEY November Conference

Date - Saturday 7th November 2015

Theme -  Be happy, be healthy: Supporting wellbeing in the early years

Location – Park Inn, York

The programme will cover sessions on –

  •  Children’s emotional and physical wellbeing
  •  The importance of nutrition
  •  Practical tips about delivering the new integrated health reviews
  •  Chance to hear more about PACEY’s upcoming work on the Body Confidence campaign as well as our Starting School Together project.

Member rates -

£80 early bird up until 19th September

£100 standard fee up until the week before the conference

Special reduced Volunteer rate £50

Online registration will be open soon

To register your interest please email

This event will be a fantastic opportunity to explore ways to help keep you and your practice healthy as well as focusing on your integral role of helping children be happy and healthy.