Watch Me Play! Supporting babies and young children, together with their parents or caregivers

Watch Me Play! is a simple way for parents and caregivers to support their baby or young child. The approach can be helpful in a range of family contexts. 

Watch Me Play! manual cover

The Watch Me Play! Manual 2020 is available for you to download for free. This fantastic resource, which will help parents to support their child's development through play, has been revised and redesigned in collaboration with ITSIEY.

Watch Me Play! was developed in First Step as an intervention to promote child-led play, enhance relationships, and create a better understanding of each child’s strengths and needs.

How it works

The Watch Me Play! approach promotes child-led play, individual attention from caregivers, and talking with babies and children about their play. Caregivers are asked to provide age-appropriate toys and their undivided attention in a quiet environment for regular short times two or more times a week. Caregivers are also encouraged to talk with the baby or child about their play, and to reflect with another involved adult or a professional on what they saw and how it felt to be with their baby or child as they played.

Play can help to allow new thoughts and feelings to be expressed. Receiving their caregiver’s undivided attention helps children to focus in their play and communicate. Letting the child take the lead, as long as what they choose to do is safe, allows adults to learn from the child’s play.

How it can be used

A special time to focus on playing and enjoying being together can help parents and caregivers to feel more connected with their baby or child. Many parents and caregivers tell us that they see positive changes in their child’s play skills, speech or relationships after using the Watch Me Play! approach. If there are worries, a period of Watch Me Play! can help to indicate the type of further intervention or assessment that may be helpful.

For vulnerable children or those who are in care, close attention to the child’s play can help to bring together professional networks, informing care planning and further support for the child. Watch Me Play! can be used by parents and by foster carers and can be used in supervised contact to enhance the experiences of parents and children.

The Watch Me Play! approach can also be used to support children in nursery or school.

What parents and carers say

Here is some of the feedback we've received on the approach: 

  • ‘My child is calmer and I feel more confident.’
  • ‘There’s not a lot of instructions but there’s a lot to gain.’
  • ‘Gives an awareness of the child’s perspective.’
  • ‘I can go home and do it today.’

Watch Me Play! Materials

Watch Me Play! Materials in translation

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Watch me play! training

If you'd like to implement Watch Me Play! in your practice, our Introduction to Watch Me Play! Short Course teaches the principles of the method and how to introduce the approach to caregivers and colleagues. Visit the course page for more information

Watch me Play! Research

Visit the Watch Me Play! approach research page for information about the research background to Watch Me Play! and current research in the UK, Italy and Japan.

For further information about Watch Me Play!, please contact Jenifer Wakelyn.

You can read more about Watch Me Play! in Jenifer’s book, ‘Therapeutic Approaches with Babies and Young Children in Care’. You can find it on the publisher’s website here.

First step

First Step provides psychological health screening and assessment for all looked-after children and young people in Haringey.

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