Playwork is the work of creating and maintaining spaces for children to play.
The theory and practice of playwork recognises that children's play should ideally be 'freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated.' Children's play must not be 'adulterated' (corrupted) by any adult or external agendas.
It is the job of a playworker to ensure that the broadest possible range of play types  can be engaged in or accessed by children, and to observe, reflect and analyse the play that is happening and select a mode of intervention or make a change to the play space if needed.
The profession has its roots in the early adventure playground movement and can now be studied to degree and masters levels.
Playwork should not be confused with childcare.
A qualification in playwork relates to working with school aged children and should not be confused with qualifications more suited to work in early years or youth work. Playworkers in the UK can now study for a foundation degree in playwork at various higher education establishments.
A play ranger is a local government employee who visits parks and outdoor spaces, providing equipment and some guidance to help children enjoy their public spaces more. They have been described as a combination of a park ranger and a playworker. They share some skills and goals in common with staff of a forest kindergarten, but are more focused on play than workers at forest schools.
- SkillsActive. "Playwork Principles", "Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group, 2005", accessed October 12, 2014
- Hughes, Bob (2006). Play types: speculations and possibilities. London Centre for Playwork Education and Training. ISBN 0955432006.
- Gill, Tim (2007). No fear: growing up in a risk averse society. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-903080-08-5.