Playtime is a neglected but important part of the school day. In previous work at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, primary teachers’ views on playtime were described. Teachers felt that aggressive and desultory behaviour were common, and that traditional playground games were in decline. But children are the experts on, and main witnesses of, playground life, and this paper reports on interviews with 11‐year‐old children in ILEA junior schools.
Playtime was very popular with children, particularly the long dinner break, and suggestions for improvements need to build on this positive view. But there were worries, for example, because of: the cold, not knowing what to do and disruptive behaviour. Just under one‐half of the children would have liked to stay in at playtime. It is argued that we take unacceptable playground behaviour too much for granted, and that children themselves would be responsive to constructive improvements. Children's own suggested improvements are considered.
The most common playground games were football, chasing games and other ball games. There were no reports of games with materials, like marbles. Singing and ring games, and games using playground markings, were rarely reported. It is argued that more could be done to encourage a greater variety of playground games. The paper ends with a look at the role of the most popular game of all–football.