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Module 1 Part 1: The role of an IGP facilitator

Why is it important?

When executed successfully, intergenerational playgroups bring older people, young children and their caregivers together and develop reciprocal relationships through play (Stanley et al., 2021). These online modules will support you in developing a successful playgroup, with insights from theory, research, and practice. Follow the steps below to create your own playgroup philosophy.

Step 1:
What is play?
Theories of play

Defining play is difficult: we know when we see it, when we feel it, when we do it, but how do we define it? One of the reasons play is difficult to define is because it is different for everyone.

Socio-cultural theories of play suggest play is influenced by the context in which it takes place. This is evident when we see children engaged in role play - the adult roles they often act out are shaped by what they see at home, and in their surrounding community. Over time, these societal influences will have changed, and the way adults and children take on roles may be different. 


Play has also been conceptualised as existing across a spectrum of autonomy (Zosh et al., 2018).  We have autonomy when we are able to make meaningful choices, when our emotions are respected, and our voices heard. When we have autonomy we feel motivated and inspired, which leads to feelings of well-being.

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This diagram from The LEGO Foundation (Zosh et al., 2017) is useful when we think about different types of play. At the left end of the spectrum we have free play, characterised by open-endedness (no fixed direction, duration, or outcome), use of imagination, continuity, initiated by the child/player and directed by the child/player… and at the other end of the spectrum we have directed activities where children/players have very little choice and ownership, and the activity is directed by another - these activities probably don’t feel very playful.

Step 2: Redefining play

The LEGO Foundation (report here) has also suggested a re-definition of play, and suggested that experiences are playful if they are:

  • Joyful

  • Socially interactive

  • Meaningful

  • Actively engaging

  • Iterative (trying out lots of different possibilities)

These characteristics align with the 5 Ways to Wellbeing framework (Aked et al., 2008) which suggests we can achieve wellbeing through:

  • Connecting

  • Being active

  • Taking notice

  • Continuing to learn

  • Giving


Click on the icons below for a short description.



Being Active

Being Active



Taking Notice

Taking Notice



Step 3: Activity

Playgroup philosophy

Reflect on why you want to establish an intergenerational playgroup, and develop it with what you’ve just heard about play and wellbeing.


Q. What do you hope for people who join in (for elders, for children, for parents)?


Q. Finish one of the following sentences


“I want playgroup members to…” or “Our playgroup philosophy is…” 

Step 4: Activity

Our own perceptions of play

This activity asks us to reflect how on our own world views, and how they may contribute to our ideas of what ‘good’ play is.

Follow the activity directions below, you'll need something to make some notes on.

1. Reflecting on your own play as a child, think about how you would answer the questions.

a) What did you like to play with?

b) Who did you play with?

c) Describe your feelings when you used to play this way?


Write down some key words or emotions that you can think of when you think of your childhood play. 

2. Now think about the ways you play as an adult. Again, write down some words that come to mind when you think about this play.

a) What do you like to play with?

b) Who do you play with?

c) Describe your feelings when you play this way?

3. If you have young children in your life, do the same exercise with them at the centre.

a) What do they like to play with?

b) What do you see when you look at them playing?

4. Now take a look at your word lists, are there some common words or emotions across them? 

Activity reflection...

Play has the power to cross life stages and bring about benefits to both young children, their parents, and elders. Even though there are some similarities, it is important to remember that play will also look different to different people. Your word lists will undoubtedly be different to another person’s. Comparing word lists with another person would be a great extension to this activity (especially if you are doing these module alongside others).​


As a playgroup facilitator it is necessary to reflect on your own play experiences but take note that these do not define what ‘good’ play is for everyone. It is important to approach your playgroup with unbiased and open views of what play may be for the different members you have joining you.  People will have play preferences, and it is important not to assume preferences based on gender or age (there is no such thing as gendered or age-appropriate play).

Step 5: Activity


Take a look at the sentence you wrote for activity 1. Does it still reflect what you want your playgroup philosophy to be, or does it need modifying? 

Grow Your Vision

Hooray you've finished Part 1 of Module 1 - use the button to move onto Part 2 where we present the differences between education and learning.

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