Play in a digital world

To understand what good looks like for children’s play in a digital world, we cut through today’s anxious confusion by integrating insights from multiple sources of expertise to synthesise the value of play in childhood. Informed by public consultation, we  evaluated opportunities to transpose the qualities of play into digital contexts, and have proposed ways to enhance them. The results can be found in our latest report, Playful by Design: Free play in a digital world. Download PDF here.


The overall objective of the survey research was to assess what apps and games children and young people are currently using, how these are used for play and what other activities including non-digital play they undertake, together with background information on their well-being.

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The report looks at one of the most important aspects of a child’s development – free play – and how platforms succeed and fail in facilitating it. The purpose is to improve children’s opportunities for free play and overcome the inhibiting factors in digital services that children report.

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What are the qualities of free play that children enjoy in a digital world? Our new report sets out the 12 qualities of play, and shows how children have devised new ways to play during the pandemic, including with apps like Zoom. We call on those with the power to influence the digital environment to prioritise Playful by Design so that these qualities can thrive and benefit children.

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The Kaleidoscope of Play in a Digital World builds on the recent Digital Futures Commission report  A Panorama of Play which identified and explored the characteristics of free play and its importance in children’s lives. This report now identifies the possibilities and challenges of children’s free play in a digital world.

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The DFC is launching a consultation on play and invites children and young people, parents and carers, and professionals who work with children to share views on the opportunities to play in a digital world.

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Our first report, A Panorama of Play, reviews the rich history of ideas about free play and proposes the qualities of play that matter in a digital world.

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