The play@home programme includes a set of books on different developmental levels (baby to preschool). These books contain activities to support babies' development and improve the mental wellbeing of parents and children from birth.

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How it started

play@home originated in the Waikato Region of New Zealand. The programme was adapted for use in Fife in 1999, through a partnership between Fife Council Education Service and NHS Fife. In 2008 it was rolled out across Scotland with support from NHS Health Scotland.

The programme consists of three books:

  • the baby book for birth to one year
  • the toddler book for one to three years
  • pre-school book for three to five years.

Children learn through movement and play. Play@home suggests healthy activities that can be used to strengthen bonding and communication, improve parenting skills and introduce physically and mentally healthy attitudes from the first day of life.

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  • Fife Council Education Service and
  • NHS Fife
  • NHS Health Scotland


The play@home programme was provided to every new parent, delivered by health visitors and public health nurses across Fife in 1999.

'I first heard about play@home through the health visitor who gave me leaflets about baby massage classes, then it was reinforced when my three year old came home from nursery with books in a bag,' says Lynsey, a young Mum in Fife with a baby and a toddler.

Irene Miller, National play@home Adviser, NHS Health Scotland says, 'Parents are encouraged to use the books as they would use a cookery book, dipping in and out as necessary, finding an appropriate activity (recipe) for the age and stage of development of their child. The book is a guide that parents can refer to whenever they wish; the activities are adaptable to meet the changing needs of the child’s development.'

A 'training for trainers' course has been developed to support staff involved in delivering the programme and supporting early years staff to be confident in encouraging parents to participate in the activities.

Baby massage classes are available in many areas and guidance on baby massage is given in the books. Rhymetime sessions from Book Bugs are available in many libraries, helping with speech and language development as well as bonding opportunities through time shared between parent and child.

Irene says, 'In some areas Play Away sessions are delivered through a six week programme encouraging parents to interact with their children using play@home activities. This can be particularly helpful for parents who may be socially isolated as an opportunity to meet other local parents.'


In 2009-2010 over 20,000 baby books were issued across Scotland and over seven hundred staff attended training sessions raising awareness of the play@home programme.

There are DVDs available to support the baby and toddler stages.

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In 2000, in Fife evaluation found 89% of parents using the programme found the baby book useful or very useful and 82% found the toddler book useful or very useful. There is currently an impact evaluation of play@home being undertaken by Queen Margaret University with early findings suggesting that play@home does have a positive impact on child development and parenting.

Lynsey says, 'From the beginning, I felt supported. I felt more confident because the books helped me understand what was good for my baby, I stopped feeling stupid saying nursery rhymes because I knew it was good for cognitive development. The programme helped me enjoy being with my baby; games and activities for different stages were particularly helpful.

'When I joined groups I felt more able to share what I had learnt with others. Through the play@home programme I feel more confident as a mother.'

What’s next for the project?

Play@home resources are being updated and refreshed. A DVD looking at play as a medium to help develop communication skills with children with sensory loss is currently in production, using play activities from play@home as a source of good practice.

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Related documents and links

Visit the Maternal and Early Years website or more information about the national roll-out of the play@home programme.


Irene Miller
National play@home Adviser
NHS Health Scotland

Tel: 0131 313 7574


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