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Play is the way

Play is the Way - cover

Upstart’s book, Play is the Way can be ordered here.  The kindle edition is available here.

For bulk orders of 10 or more books (to the same address) at £6 per copy + postage costs, please email Helen at

If you bought a copy of the first edition, you can download Chapter 15 (on diversities and equalities) included in the second edition here (scroll to bottom of the page).

Nursery World Awards 2021 - Finalist imageA recording of the launch (discussion between Play is the Way authors) is available here. We’re also thrilled to announce that Play is the Way was named one of the Books of the Year 2020 in the Scottish Review! In July 2021, it was  shortlisted for the Nursery World Professional Book Award 2021.

2 sacks, four boxes and a bundleA crowd-funding campaign in December 2020 raised enough money to send a copy of Play is the Way to every MSP and Director of Education in Scotland. Quite a few MSPs must have read it because on 9-3-21, there was a debate in the Scottish parliament on the possibility of introducing a kindergarten stage for three- to seven-year-olds.  See the recording here.

Play is the Way Little Book of Quotes - front coverIn February 2021 we started a Play is the Way Book Group, which proved very popular. Recordings of the nine meetings can be found here.

In November 2021, we launched the Play is the Way Little Book of Quotes, created and illustrated by Upstart supporter Bryony Date to help spread the word about the science supporting a kindergarten stage. It can be ordered here.


In years to come, when Scotland considers with pride its early years approach, we will point to this book to understand how we achieved it.   Jackie Brock, CEO Children in Scotland

This highly readable concise wee book offers fourteen different informed perspectives on the damage done to Scots kids by missing out on play during the early years. It’s a brilliant exercise in blended learning about the subject – with engaging stories, sharp science and critical analysis all in one short volume. Essential reading for anyone involved in play, education or government.   Lesley Riddoch, radio broadcaster, journalist, author, Fife

This is one of the most uplifting and important books I have read for some time, because it gets to the heart of true education for the young child.  There can be fewer things in life more moving and compelling than to be asked by a child: “Will you play with me?          Dr Alan Wolfe, formerly Senior Lecturer in Language Education, University of Aberdeen

There is no doubt that play is crucial in early years settings and beyond. Any school leader, practitioner, parent or politician struggling to understand why play is so important should read this book.   George Gilchrist, former head teacher, blogger and author of ‘Practitioner Enquiry’

One of the best books I’ve read in my 25 years of mostly early years teaching. Informative, interesting, thought provoking, encourages self reflection … and inspiring. Claire Clark, early years teacher 

A rich and engaging resource for educators, health professionals, policy makers and parents… Whilst stemming from Scotland and referring to particular cultural and historical aspects of early education in that country, the book is of equal importance to those of us working elsewhere in the United Kingdom… Bravo to the whole team who put this gem of a compendium together during the pandemic lockdown and are keeping the momentum going for appropriate and life-enhancing early education and care.  Julie McCann. BAPT Play Therapist 

Play is the Way is a vital manual for any parent and all parents, and all school teachers. It belongs on the shelves at home and at school, not to be gathering dust but to be read and read again and, above all, to be implemented.  It is a book that shapes the future for all of us, an inspired compendium of thoughtful study, common sense and practical wisdom for a better world.’    Sir John Lister-Kaye OBE, naturalist and author, Scottish Highlands

In the context of increasing academic understanding of the profound significance of early childhood learning opportunities, ‘Play is the Way’ provides a range of stimulating narratives to engage practitioners, and provocative arguments that should inform Scottish education policy development. Outdoor play brings specific benefits in health and well-being vital to childhood development, and similarly time in and with nature is vital to developing positive attitudes to sustainability. These too are strong themes of this book, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in early learning and the primary years.    Peter Higgins, Professor of Outdoor, Environmental & Sustainability Education, University of Edinburgh

Play is the Way …… to a future of hope! This compact, accessible volume opens the window on a new, positive future for upcoming generations of children, and represents an opportunity to revive and transform Scotland’s reputation as an educational innovator. If we want to ‘Realise the Ambition’ and build a community of active, creative, inventive and adaptive citizens who are equipped to embrace the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century, we need bold, courageous leaders who are willing to try something different and fly the flag for play.   Julia Whitaker, registered Health Play Specialist

An important, accessible resource for practitioners, policy makers, academics and students who share an interest in early childhood.  This well-composed book provides coverage of a number of vital issues, including the critical importance of play based pedagogical practice in both early learning childcare settings and beyond. It explores the tensions between the value of rich outdoor experiences and the pressures on children for early academic achievement. It also celebrates the prominence of practitioners as researchers.      Richard Andrew, Professor of Education, University of Edinburgh

‘Play Is the Way’ offers both penetrating analysis and an agenda for action.  It challenges the Scottish Government to review official thinking on the best age to start formal education, and argues that the foundations for ‘closing the attainment gap’ need to be laid in early childhood.      Professor Walter Humes, University of Stirling

Each chapter and author [in Play is the Way] has their own important message (and solo section), but the collective message is so powerful like a choir.    Okim Gar, Early Years teacher and Assitant Head Teacher, England

We need a transformation – even a kind of revolution – in how we think about education, what it is and who it is for. Central to this is putting the interests of the child first, including relationships and the power of play. This powerful and enlightened book is the launch pad to make that change.     Dr Gerry Hassan, writer and academic; co-editor, ‘Scotland after the Virus’. 

As a parent I instinctively knew that outdoor play is what my children need to thrive. This book has given me the evidence and rationale. An essential read for all parents and early years practitioners.   Merlin Planterose, Chair, Kinder Croft CIC Outdoor Nursery, Ullapool

Education has been re-philosophising what it is about for some time, some of that has seen shifts but there is still work to do. The Upstart Scotland campaign has led the charge to promote play based learning in early years. Upstart’s championing at practice and policy level is now augmented with its success in drawing together a rich tapestry and kernel of knowledge.  The timing of Play is the Way’s release could not be more apt – we are in an era where education and indeed society is asking questions about what it means to be human.  All being well, play based approaches will continue to be promoted and advanced thanks to this significant contribution.   Neil McLennan, Senior Lecturer/Director of Leadership Programmes, University of Aberdeen 

A wonderful book. The different viewpoints, leading the same way, give such strength and power.  All early years provision must be ‘rights-focused, relationship-centred and play-based’.  A must read!    Victoria Lungu, Reggio Emilia atelierista, Leeds 

Play is the Way presents a policy to support Scotland’s young children for lifetimes of well-being. It celebrates every 3 to 7-year-old’s hope for sharing joy of life outdoors in playful affection with loved ones. Belief that the affections and skills of free play in natural and cultural worlds is the foundation of the most sophisticated arts and science is supported by psycho-biological science of early years. Description of how intelligent knowledge and skills mature in human bodies and minds from before birth to 7 or 8 years in every human society reveals innate measures of ‘musicality’ in movement-with-feelings by which sharing of ideas and actions are both enjoyable and creative.

From before birth, a human social life benefits from exploring experiences with others in playful imagination of body movement, seeking and sharing fun in discovery. That is how we build and recall stories to tell lifetimes and centuries of ‘common sense’. It is a mistake to believe that learning in education can only result from an intelligent imitation wanting to know and name seriously a teacher’s facts and skills.    Colwyn Trevarthen, Professor (Emeritus) of Child Psychology and Psychobiology, University of Edinburgh