Watch me play! Supporting babies and young children 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.
The new Watch Me Play! Manual 2020 is now available. 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
- Why Play Matters – a one-page leaflet providing an overview of the approach
- An Introduction to Watch Me Play! – a nine-page leaflet produced by colleagues in Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
- Watch Me Play! Manual
- Watch Me Play! Further Information – including an overview of relevant child development research and case studies
- A Watch Me Play! Diary – a one-page diary template, taken from the Watch Me Play! Manual
Watch Me Play! Materials in translation
Watch me play! training
If you'd like to implement Watch Me Play! in your practice, we have training available:
- Our new Watch Me Play! Masterclass series, delivered via Zoom, will provide an accessible introduction to the approach, including its background in child development research and links to infant observation. Visit the Digital Academy website to find out more and sign up.
- 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.
Training is also available through ITSIEY.
The Watch Me Play! evaluation form
You can also download the Watch Me Play! evaluation form to give your feedback as a parent, carer or clinician. Comments and suggestions will be gladly received and will help to inform the next stage of the manual, where we hope to include video clips.
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.
Watch Me Play! is a way of supporting vulnerable babies and young children (aged from 0-7) and their caregivers. Developed with the needs of young...Find out more
First Step provides psychological health screening and assessment for all looked-after children and young people in Haringey.