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Playspace® Learning

Playspaces® offer a contemporary perspective on how attachment theory can be integrated into early childhood practice. Playspaces® are used at the busiest times – the transitions to and from childcare - to make these times the stillest, so everyone can feel welcomed, seen and not overwhelmed.

Transitions are often overlooked as a starting place to create a calm learning environment for all children - especially children who have experienced trauma or who have diverse learning needs.  Transitions are also a starting place for educators and teachers to find a firmness within themselves to help children and families to feel safe.

The idea behind Playspaces® is to support educators to be still, so they have (1) more chance to experience how the children use them for relationship support (2) and more capacity to be predictable and emotionally available. (3) They learn a secure model for taking charge when children need help due to the task being too difficult or their emotions being too big. Playspaces are like bookends, that support what happens in your program, in between.


Through animation, video footage and interviews with educators and parents, educators see what Playspaces® are, how they have come about, and what they look like when they are working well.


Educators learn how to lead the transitions with the Two Rowing Boats image. They bring the boats together so the child can step from one to the other securely.

Educators lead:

  1. A Negotiated Goodbye with families and their child at the start of the day.

  2. A Launch to Explore period that begins with recovery time for the children after the Negotiated Goodbye. This transition gives all children a predictable entry into peer play.

  3. A Negotiated Reunion when parents come to collect their children at the end of the day. 

  4. A Mini Transition between Educators at other times during the day to build predictability and community.

Format for a Service: Playspaces® Learning is a 4-day learning (or twenty hours) Days 1 and 2 consist of Foundational Learning (10 hours all up) and Days 3 and 4 consist of Reflexive Practice (10 hours all up).


You may be familiar with reflective practice but what we do in Reflexive Practice is a little bit different.  Reflection is concerned with thoughtful questions about children and how they may be communicating and feeling.  Reflexivity does what reflection does but in addition, it poses thoughtful questions about yourself, noticing your own emotional responses and wondering about them in relation to the children.

Secure Beginnings Two Rowing Boats Image small.jpg

Outline of Playspace® Learning

Type of Learning

Activities, What Educators Learn

Foundational Learning

Introduction to Playspaces®: what are they and how do they work? Themes: Being Still, Reflexive Practice and Relational Language.

How have Playspaces® come about? Their history and relation to Attachment theory and to Holding Feelings to support children's emotional regulation.

First Relational Transition: Negotiated Goodbye. Educators are introduced to the Rowing Boat Metaphor and the morning Negotiated Goodbye transition. They discuss where to locate Playspaces in their rooms/playground. 

Equivalent to one-day (5 hours of Foundational Learning)

Foundational Learning

Second Relational Transition: Launch to Explore. Educators are introduced to Launch to Explore which takes place after parents leave. Educators learn to give children recovery time and learn a structure to give children a predictable entry into play.

Third relational Transition: Negotiated Reunion. Educators are introduced to the afternoon Negotiated Reunion to give children a predictable reunion with their families at the end of the day.

Mini Transition between Educators. 

Educators are introduced to the mini transition, where they are explicit about handing over from one educator to another to build predictability and community. 

Each relational routine provides a structure for educators to work together and to work with parents to create a safety net of sensitive, predictable emotional back-up for children and families

Equivalent to one-day (5 hours of Foundational Learning)

4 weeks to practice                                                

This phase of learning shifts from “knowing about” to “doing”. Educators practice being in a Playspaces® (being still; using relational language) and they recruit one family to practice the Relational Routines with and film some of their practice. “Doing” increases the educators’ confidence in their own new learning and deepens their commitment to the program.

Reflexive Practice -

Experiential Learning

Educators participate in Reflexive Practice in a group, where they review their own video footage with the trainers and learn from the reflections and video-material of their colleagues.


Educators establish fidelity in implementing the four Relational Routines; and set the seeds for a secure base culture within their service.

Equivalent to two-days (10 hours of Reflexive Practice). At completion of their training, educators are registered as certified practitioners in Playspace Learning®.

Educators can complete the 20-hours of learning as 2 x two days or as 8 x 2.5-hour sessions. Sessions can be face-to-face or online or a combination of the two.


Cost: Playspace® Learning for a whole service is $8,000.  Foundational Days 1 & 2 are available for all educators working within the centre. However, Reflexive Practice Days (Days 3 and 4) consist of a maximum of 12 participants.  Therefore, for centres who have more than 12 participants, an extra charge of $350 is required for each additional educator to complete the 10-hours of Reflexive Practice. 


If two services would like to combine to reduce costs, the two services can do the Foundational Learning together. This would cost each service $2,000 instead of $4,000. The Reflexive Mentoring will remain the same i.e. each service will do the Reflexive Mentoring separately at a cost of $4,000 for each service. The total cost for each service would then be $6,000.


Learning outcomes: Playspace® Learning fosters more thoughtful practice, contributing to how educators:  

  1. Pace themselves – they slow down and meet children with a quiet mind.

  2. Develop observation skill –they bring effort to guess how children are feeling on the inside as well as how they are behaving on the outside. 

  3. Practice relational language – they learn to put into words the relationship support that they are giving to the children in the moment. 

  4. Discover how they function as a secure base for children to explore from and return to for comfort and connection.

  5. Become more confident to take charge when children need help with dysregulated behaviour and emotions.

  6. Self-reflect - educators notice and track their own feelings so that they can better stay with the children’s feelings.  Take a leadership role in transitions.

  7. Become a secure base for each other and build a secure base culture.

  8. Make partnerships with families. Educators lead with a structure at the start and end of the day that creates a sense of welcome, ease and connection with families. Educators being still and inviting parents to come to them, make them an anchor. They help parents to land. When parents land, this is the quickest way for children to learn to land and settle.

  9. Launch children to explore to build a community of children who love to learn and play together

Playspace Learning Masterclass: Ongoing online learning is available in a group format to give educators in a service a secure base from which to deepen their Playspace® Learning practice.  The duration is 5 hours and is delivered face-to-face or on-line as a day session or a 4 and a quarter hour sessions. The cost is $2000 per team.


For information contact: Robyn Dolby at


Reference: Dolby, R., Hughes, E. & Friezer, B. 2013. Secure transitions: supporting children to feel secure, confident and included. Canberra: Early Childhood Australia.

Playspace® Learning is registered as an approved Professional Development Program in:



C&K Kindy Uplift QLD - Supporting Children's Social and Emotional Capacity



Victorian School Readiness Funding 2023 Menu of evidence-informed programs and supports. Department of Education and Training, Victoria.

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