Somerset County Council gets to work on play at packed Bridgwater conference

A conference exploring the way different environments can help children play has been hosted in Bridgwater, bringing together teachers, childminders, and education professionals specialising in children’s early years.

Hosted by Somerset County Council’s Early Years team, the ‘Environments – Make a Difference’ conference took place at Canalside Conference Centre and attracted 140 professionals from across the sector.

The conference focused on how the environment a child learns or plays in has an essential role in supporting their learning and development, and started with a keynote speech from Ben Kingston-Hughes, a multi-award-winning trainer and author of “A Very Unusual Journey Into Play”.

Drawing upon his experiences of working with vulnerable children, Ben explained the importance of play for young children, and how those experiences directly affect their development, behaviour, well-being, and creativity. His distinctive blend of humour and passionate delivery engaged the audience and delegates were genuinely inspired.

Attendees were then invited to take part in two different workshops, choosing from the following, led by early years experts:

  • Loose parts play – building the future – Ben Kingston-Hughes
  • Loving pedagogy – Tamsin Grimmer, Early Education Consultant
  • Creating a communication friendly environment for preschool children – Amanda Griffiths, Speech & Language Adviser
  • Environments that support children’s emotional well-being – Julia Gaskell, Head of Training, Agency and Alumni, Norland College
  • Multi-sensory environments, Rebecca Fisk, Somerset Early Years SEND Service
  • Musical Play Spaces – creating enabling environments for musical expression – Take Art, Jane Parker and Eliza Wylie
  • Physical Active environments – Stuart Kennard, Zing Somerset Children and Families Worker SASP.

The conference was the perfect opportunity for early years’ practitioners to meet, network, share good practice and learn from experienced professionals. 

Delegates had a fantastic time joining in the workshops and learning from them and reported feeling more inspired to create and plan the right learning environments for children to thrive and achieve.

One delegate said “It was really interesting to listen to and do practical activities linking to research and practice to support children through their play”.

Another expressed how they would be implementing their practice straight away, saying “It was a great conference – made me look forward to working next week making all sorts of imaginative things with the children to stimulate their minds”.

Councillor Tessa Munt, Executive Lead for Children & Families at Somerset County Council said “Play is absolutely vital to every child’s development, and it’s wonderful to see our talented team of professionals drilling down into the very serious business of play! The environments we provide for Somerset’s children are critical to enabling them to develop through play by providing them with opportunities to move, interact with the natural world, or develop their creativity and communication skills.

“At Somerset County Council, we believe learning should be fun – not just for our children, but for our teachers and professionals too! Studies show that play is a great way to reduce nervousness and anxiety, and with creativity becoming a skill employers find increasingly desirable, incorporating more play might be important for the future of work too.”

Somerset Early Years and Childcare Service is recruiting more childminders. For more information about becoming a childminder, and for an information pack, please call 0300 123 2224 or visit