Penny Wilson

Penny Wilson

Penny Wilson is a professional Playworker who works for the Play Association Tower Hamlets – PATH, a non-profit organization based in the East End of London that supports play in an overcrowded, poor, increasingly urban setting.

Penny Wilson grew up in the South East of England, where she enjoyed the freedom of playing on the rolling hills of the South Downs and beside the sea. The playful experiences of her childhood would influence her work in advocating for play for over 25 years.1

Penny had a brief career as an illustrator after studying illustration at Camberwell School of Art in London. She describes her introduction to playwork as it finding her. She took a job at a community program that worked with children with disabilities after school, on weekends, and on holidays. While she found the program to be abusive to the children with little play value in the work, she discovered how these children actually had their own way to play and began to discover the joy of child-initiated free play. This propelled her to apply for work at an adventure playground for children of all abilities.2

Working at Chelsea Adventure Playground, Penny began her work in earnest supporting children with disabilities in inclusive play settings as they play with their peers.3 She eventually ran the Chelsea Adventure Playground for several years.4

As a professional Playworker, Penny was a member of the Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group that condensed the work of Bob Hughes, Gordon Sturrock, and Mick Conway to produce eight principles known as the Playwork Principles.5 These principles describe the professional and ethical framework for Playworkers and guide their approach for working with children.6

Penny has worked with the Alliance for Childhood for several years in an effort to bring the playwork concept and Adventure Playgrounds to the United States. She has spoken to parks departments, children’s museums, schools, and educators. The Playwork concept has been implemented in several parks and children’s museums in the United States.7

In 2011, Penny was a keynote speaker at the US Play Coalition Conference on the Value of Play, held at Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina. She spoke on “Beyond Value” where she advocated the need for play. She has found that a great motivator to help people understand the need for play is by asking them to recall their own play memories.

Penny continues to be a strong advocate for play both in the United Kingdom and in the United States.

  • 1. Biography from the US Play Coalition Conference on the Value of Play, held February 2011.
  • 2. “The Cultural Origins and Play Philosophy of Playworkers. An Interview with Penny Wilson.” American Journal of Play. Winter 2009.
  • 3. Op. cit., Biography.
  • 4. Wilson, Penny. The Playwork Primer. College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood. 2009.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group, Cardiff 2005. “The Playwork Principles.” Play Wales. < > 8 April 2011.
  • 7. Op. cit., Wilson, Penny.