The Importance of Play

Interview with Tom Shea – The Importance of Play

What an absolute delight it was to meet Tom Shea in person. He reminds me of a playful wizard – in fact I can see him morphing into one of my children’s book characters one day.

With over 40 years experience in child care it comes as no surprise that this beautiful soul understands the needs of young children. Specializing in 0-7 years, he has successfully poured his passion, wisdom and knowledge into creating childcare centres that put the “child first” hence the name.

Learning through play

At Child First there is a strong passion for learning through play and following the interests of children to plan stimulating and exciting activities.

I was fortunate to visit several of Tom’s inspiring centres – Child First Moulton in Northampton and Child First Wellbeck.

As an outdoor fanatic, the wildness of the outdoor space captured my heart as I watched the young children run wild and free. Northampton has a wonderful Georgian lodge situated within 3 acres of land and forest, where children are encouraged to take risks, develop confidence and self esteem and explore the natural surroundings no matter what the weather.

A most magical and enchanting outdoor space with mature trees to climb, hedge rows and dens offering great hiding spaces and an whimsical fairy garden – with flower blooms guaranteed all year round.

Wellbeck is Toms latest venture – an impressive transformation of an old derelict poultry house into a most spectacular learning environment. Tom has even created a wonderful outdoor art room – I could have spent all day there. Loved the plexiglass. Wellbeck is set to be every bit as stunning as the historic site in which it is set – beautiful ancient woodlands nestled in Sherwood Forest.

Of course the real truth was the children’s joy and laughter that filled the fresh morning air – testimonial of how great a place is.

Although each of his nine centres are unique; the child’s well-being is at the heart of each inspiring centre. When you arrive in one of Tom’s centres you immediately want to go play…

The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Education


Not everyone has access to such abundance, however, each one of us working with young children can learn from Tom’s centres and can take elements of his practice and implement them into your own preschools, kindergartens and childcare centres.

“The way in which we are around children, particularly children from birth to four years old will be the most influential to them and affect the rest of their lives. To leave this to chance is potentially damaging, not to care is potentially dangerous and to believe we are doing it right and not open our minds to influence and learning is extremely sad.” – Tom Shea

Tom is an incredibly gifted, creative, intelligent, down-to-earth soul, full of love and wonder and deeply passionate about the well-being of our children. What I love about this man is that he walks the walk, talks the talk and takes ACTION! And encourages and inspires others to do the same.

Take Action

I hope this short interview inspires you to take action, whether it is starting up your own playgroup, centre or simply creating a better, more playful open ended space for your children (students) to play, learn and grow into healthy, well balanced adults.

Here’s to creating more magical places where the child comes first – where children can be children all day long.

You can get in touch with Tom via Facebook or email at or visit and International Play Iceland.


The video link is here: