Children's Social, Emotional and Mental Health and Wellbeing at Playtimes

  • Sian Bristow

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


Thesis abstract Background The United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child outline children's right to play as a fundamental human right. The importance of play at playtimes in schools is suggested to be poorly recognised and prioritised. Methods A systematic literature review (SLR) aimed to identify features of school playtime provision which support children's social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) and wellbeing and promote their right to play. The second paper aimed to investigate SEMH and wellbeing aspects of playtime through child-led participatory action research. The child co-researchers were supported to design and facilitate data collection and collaborative thematic data analysis. Analysis The SLR identified 11 best evidence studies; this paper drew out features of successful playtime approaches/interventions relating to children's SEMH/wellbeing at playtimes. The empirical research paper identified five main themes from analysis: the availability and nature of games, having someone to play with, how people treat each other, the importance of playtimes and views of the playtime rules. This research highlights interactions between the themes as important. Conclusions The SLR suggests that there is a dearth of research evaluating approaches to supporting children's SEMH, wellbeing and right to play at playtime that have a more contemporary view of play; with current studies having a greater focus upon social control and adherence to rules set by adults. The empirical study highlights the importance of holistic playtime provision and illustrates that with appropriate training and support, children were able to effectively engage in research investigating playtime. This research has been disseminated in the following ways: with the child co-researchers at the research site, through a magazine article, as a workshop at the Division of Educational and Child Psychology (DECP) conference and towards the DECP position paper on children's right to play. A further dissemination strategy has been outlined.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKevin Woods (Supervisor) & Catharine Atkinson (Supervisor)


  • wellbeing
  • participation
  • play
  • recess
  • playtime

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