Background and aim(s)

Playtime in schools has been shown to have wide-ranging benefits to children and young people. However, opportunities for playtime in schools have declined over time. It is important children’s voices are heard on matters that are important to them, yet playtime is often driven by adult policy. The aim of this systematic literature review (SLR) was to explore children’s views on playtime to further our understanding of what is important to them, and what affects their access to playtime.


This SLR employed thematic synthesis to aggregate the views of children on playtime. This review includes 8 papers which met inclusion criteria, and this review drew out children’s views on playtime from each study.


Children’s views on playtime included both aspects that they enjoyed as well as the barriers that they perceived to enjoying and accessing their playtime. Aspects that they enjoyed included: being outdoors, social interaction and friendships, physical activity, and freedom and autonomy. Aspects that they perceived to be barriers to enjoying and accessing playtime included: social conflict, risk, weather, loss of playtime, and lack of resource and support.


Most of papers included were from either the UK or USA, with one being from Greece. This is likely to impact the representation of these findings to other countries. The studies did not include the views of older children (14+) or the views of groups that are more likely to face barriers to their play (e.g. children with special educational needs).


From the studies reviewed, children identified many positive aspects of, as well as barriers to, their playtime. Implications for policy and practice include considerations about length of opportunities for playtime, as well as resources and staffing allocated to managing playtime. Further implications include challenging practice that restricts playtime. This review also highlighted a dearth in research exploring children’s views on playtime as a general concept. Directions for future research are discussed further.