The Right to Play
Hundreds of Edinburgh school children, who struggle to play in mainstream settings, are enjoying inclusive play sessions within the ‘safe haven’ of a local children’s charity.
The Yard works with children and young people aged 0-25 with Additional Support Needs through adventure play sessions in Edinburgh, Dundee and Kirkcaldy.
The service offers creative and inclusive play experiences in a well-supported environment, alongside wraparound support for the whole family, with a varied programme of drop-in, respite and transition youth clubs, early years, specialist sessions with schools, family play sessions, plus inclusive play and disability training.
One of the schools to benefit is Flora Stevenson Primary School, based in the Comely Bank area of the city. The school transports five pupils to The Yard weekly for a two-hour session.
Toni Carter, Support for Learning Teacher, said, “As a Support for Learning Teacher, I’m driven to ensure that support is in place for every child to maximise their mental and emotional well-being. While making enquiries about local resources, we heard about The Yard and the valuable role it could play.
“The Yard is a place where children can feel nurtured and understood. The environment creates opportunities to build positive relationships, take risks, and have fun – without judgement. The children we bring experience barriers to their learning and look forward to their visit all week. They feel safe and relaxed from the moment they arrive, and through creative free play, can test their own limits without fear.
“Not all school environments are set up for adventure and exploratory play, yet that’s the key to supporting these children. The staff are also amazing, they’re highly skilled and trained, and we, as teachers, learn a lot from them, including techniques and strategies to take back to the classroom. As for the children, you wouldn’t believe the difference one visit per week makes. It impacts their behaviour and readiness to learn as they’ve had that break that they really need, and a chance to just be themselves.”
So what do the children enjoy when they visit The Yard? Everything is child-led with a fantastic outdoor space, complemented by a range of indoor facilities, toys and chill-out zones.
Toni explained, “There’s something for every child, a brilliant range of arts and crafts, messy play, a sensory room, music activities and soft play but also a fantastic range of outdoor options from bikes and rollerblades to den-making, basketball and climbing trees. Everything is child-led and child-focused, but with this amazing scaffolding of support around them. It’s an environment that combines care, patience and empathy with adventurous play, risk-taking and trying out new things. But most of all, they’re understood when they’re there. They can be themselves.”
Celine Sinclair, CEO of The Yard, added, “By working with small groups, we’re offering a service that mainstream schools simply cannot provide in the classroom. Although most of our activities are child-led, we can also tailor our activities to what the rest of the class is doing, but adapted to those who struggle a little. These small steps can be quite life-changing, with children realising they CAN do something, enjoy it and learn from it.
“It’s also wonderful to see some of the children who attend from school return with their mums, dads, siblings and grandparents during our weekend family sessions, gaining from that wraparound wider family support. The fact we don’t demand paperwork or a diagnosis is also key – if your child would benefit from being here, we’re there for you. In most cases, the wider family needs support too, and really gains from the environment and the connections they make with our staff and other families. For many families, we become a lifeline.”
For more information about The Yard, contact our team on 0131 476 4506 or visit www.theyardscotland.org.uk