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Play to Z Ltd


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Recent Course Feedback

Monster Learning and Messy Play

Here's what childminder Holly Abnett, Childminder – Sunbeams & Rainbows said about Sue's latest course in Wakefield:

I wouldn’t change anything, this course was fantastic”

Unlocking the Wonder of the World

'This course was amazing - it encompassed all the things I love about working with children, and gave me fresh ideas as to how to do so'

'Sue was friendly, knowledgeable and approachable. So many inspirational ideas, my head was buzzing on the way home'

'Loads of new malleable activities to try, lovely ideas about Treasure Baskets, different ways of presenting things, new ideas to try with children on the Autistic Spectrum'

for more testimonials, please scroll to the end of the page

About Sue Gascoyne

Working across the UK and internationally, Sue is a leading thinker and writer on sensorial play and provision for children across the ages. With eight years’ experience in education and 25 years as a trainer, Sue’s contribution to the early year’s sector was recognised in 2009 when she was awarded Nursery World Trainer of the year. She is a member of NEYTCO, a member and contributor to TACTYC, a regular speaker at ECEERA and BECERA and an active member of the BERA Early Childhood special interest group /TACTYC collaboration formulating policy guidance for the Government. Sue also sits on several EECERA Special Interest Groups such as Children’s Play, Children’s Perspectives and Children as Researchers.

In 2006 she launched Play to Z, the multi-award winning children’s play resource company in which she maintains an active role as creative director, responsible for product design. Since 2009 Sue has run workshops and provided keynotes nationally and internationally at a host of educational and SEN events and regularly presents papers to the international European Early Childhood Education Research Conference. Sue also provides training nationally and internationally including commissions in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland. She has taught on several Graduate and Post Graduate University Modules in the UK. As a campaigner for the recognition of the importance of sensory processing problems for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Sue also specialises in supporting the needs of children with SEN.

As a qualified Creative Arts and Play Therapist based in UK primary schools, Sue works with vulnerable children using creative media to help them overcome their personal, social and emotional difficulties. She is currently studying for a Diploma in Play Therapy.

As well as regular features in the national press, Sue has written and contributed to several acclaimed books:

  • Sensory Play (2011, 2013) Practical Pre-School 
  • Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Early Childhood – Chapter 1 (January 2012) Sage 
  • Treasure Baskets and Beyond – Realizing the Potential of Sensory-rich Play (August 2012) Open University Press
  • Play in the Reception Classroom (2013) Early Years Educator

Research Focus

Since 2009 Sue has established a reputation as an Early Years Researcher taking on the role of lead researcher at Play to Z, writing funding bids and research briefs, liaising with universities and/or participants, carrying out research, analysing findings, drafting research reports, articles and books. Sue’s books and training draw heavily upon original and contemporary research to further our understanding of the importance of sensorial play and benefits of play with objects for the development of the body and brain. The latest of these focuses on children’s hand movements as they play and explore. In fact research underpins all Play to Z's training, with Sue’s courses and parent/child classes drawing upon the extensive findings of contemporary and independent research. Play to Z has established an enviable reputation for its research:

  • National Sensory Play Research project in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University. 77 observations were carried out in children’s centres, nurseries and homes throughout the country with 8 month to 5 year olds to explore children’s responses to sensory-rich Treasure Baskets and to map play during each stage of the sensory play continuum. Questionnaires provided a snapshot of parents’ and practitioners’ own sensory ‘experiences’ (2009, EEDA funded).
  • Cutting edge pilot research project with the University of Hertfordshire and Games for Life, mapping brain activity while early years children played with a Treasure Basket (2011)
  • Weekly play observations were carried out in an Essex-based Activity Centre over a six month period. The observations culminated in the development of a typology of Treasure Basket behaviours (2011/12).
  • National Hands Movement research - ongoing in partnership with Jan White (2013/14). 

Sue’s current research focus is threefold:

  • The potential benefits of using sensory-rich objects to support adults with Alzheimer’s.
  • The role of collections of small-world toys and objects in supporting children’s therapeutic play.
  • A comparison between the fine motor actions evident in children’s play and the exploratory hand procedures of adults.

Areas of Expertise

  • Sensory education and provision
  • Learning through play
  • Early childhood learning environments
  • Early childhood development
  • Wellbeing and PSED
  • Therapeutic Play
  • Meeting children’s individual needs
  • Treasure Baskets
  • Sensory processing difficulties and solutions
  • Creativity and problem solving
  • Fine motor skills and physical development
  • Getting the most from Low and No Cost resources - Object play, Heuristic Play and Loose Parts Play 

All provision is tailored to meet client’s particular needs. The list of topics below gives an idea of the range of topics that can be delivered as keynotes, training sessions, mentoring or workshops.

  • Understanding and Providing for Under Two’s
  • Meeting the Sensory Needs of Children
  • Creating a Sensory-Rich Indoor and Outdoor Environment
  • Bringing the EYFS to life with Sensory Play
  • Developing Sensory Provision Outdoors
  • Sparking Exploration and Investigation
  • Developing Imaginative and Creative Play In and Outdoors
  • Supporting Children as Effective Learners

Training Approach

Sue Gascoyne provides high quality training and workshops for early years practitioners, teachers, students, parents and carers. The Statutory Framework for the EYFS recognises the characteristics of effective learning as Playing and Exploring, Active Learning, Creating and Thinking Creatively. Adults too benefit from a good mix of learning through play, hands-on exploration and opportunities for being creative. As well as being highly participative and practically linked to the EYFS, all Sue’s courses and sessions feature the following ingredients, essential for maximising the positive benefits of training. 

  • Accessible theoretical foundation 
  • Fun and engaging activities 
  • Play observations – written, photographic and video 
  • Practitioner discussion and reflection 

Sue’s training is flexible, with sessions tailor-made to suit the needs of particular settings, participants or themes. Although many of the courses and sessions feature a focus on the senses (be it sensory stimulation, sensory processing, sensory play or a sensory edication) or object play (e.g. Treasure Baskets), their benefits are far wider reaching. For some, the hands-on medium of sensory play is a particularly empowering way of introducing crucial less accessible issues like pedagogy, the adult’s role in supporting play, getting the adult/child-led balance right, brain development, schemas, wellbeing and the EYFS. The benefits and learning gained are relevant and transferable to numerous aspects of child care and development and are designed to support good practice through changing hearts and minds. As a Therapeutic Play Practitioner, Sue is passionate about the power of open-ended sensorial resources, like sand and water for supporting children's personal, social and emotional development and delivering tangible behavioural changes. Contact to discuss your Play Therapy needs.

Training Options

  • In-house – Inset days, twilight or cluster sessions.
  • Master-classes – Attend one of the many courses available at our Colchester-based Centre of Excellence.
  • Bespoke Training Solutions - Contact us to find out more. 
  • Training and Resource Packages – What better way of galvanising action after practitioners leave inspired from the training than for them to be able to put their learning into practice with gorgeous, stimulating resources. 
  • Sensory Appraisal – If you’re not sure whether children’s sensory play needs are being taken seriously in your setting, why not commission us to carry out a Sensory Appraisal, provide staff training, run a session for parents, and work with you on developing and implementing an action plan? 
  • Mentoring and one-to-one guidance.

Please email Sue ( for details of our Training Courses and Sessions.  



The EYFS and Sensory Training – inset day

‘Thank you so much for an amazing training session today – my staff are all buzzing and full of new ideas to support the children in our school. I really appreciate the effort you took to personalise so many things to our children and the resources were brilliant.

Thanks again – you are one of the best speakers we have had.’ (Donna Garratt, Head of Ghost Hill Nursery and Infant School)

Sensory Play and PSED

‘I feel much more confident and better equipped as I feel Sue really passionately shared her valuable experience and research.’

‘What refreshing passion you bring to your training sessions Sue – it’s been inspiring to meet you – thank you.’ (Rachel Stewart, Grow Big Sense Project Leader)

Bringing the Curriculum Alive with Sensory-rich Play – inset day

‘Thank you ever so much the feedback received was excellent.’(Nicholas Moore YPO for Barnsley MBC)

Wellbeing Module

‘Thank you so much. The student feedback was excellent they all really enjoyed your session and I hope that we will be able to make your session an ongoing part of the module each year. Thank you again.’ (Carol Rogers, Senior Lecturer; Faculty of Society & Health, Bucks University)

Whole school and nursery cross curricular training

‘As far as the use of treasure boxes is concerned within the classroom, and creating a more tactile / exploratory environment is concerned, here in Zollikon I have seen a vast improvement in the use of:

  • Water play, sand exploration, quiet retreat dens
  • Collections of tactile items within baskets are started!

So, there was certainly a buzz created from your workshop. Thanks again, and we will certainly remain in touch on various areas of our development within the schools.’ (Carole Tomaszewicz, Deputy Head, Tandem School Zurich)

Early Years Advisory Team's 'Understanding Under 2's' Conference.

‘After your training there's been a real buzz amongst settings this week and I know of two of my settings that have already placed orders to develop their resources so I'm really pleased. I wanted to reiterate again that Sutton would be really happy to get involved in any research you are undertaking. Some of our settings have really developed their practice and understand how children learn best and two in particular that have changed all their resources and really gone with sensory play and children's interests.’ (London Borough of Sutton)


Click here to see a recent presentation Sue provided at the Autism Show on how neuroscience can help us to understand SEN.