The importance of Play

Play is a serious business and a lack of play opportunities for children is becoming a form of deprivation, according to play experts and national organisations.

“All too often the subject of play has been trivialised, consigned to local newspaper pictures of bouncy castles and “gappy toothed children with their faces painted like clowns” says Penny Wilson of the Play Association Tower Hamlets. “This has nothing to do with what play is about. Play is an instinctive and essential part of childhood which is becoming more and more under pressure, with evidence that a lack of spontaneous play leaves a long-term social legacy. Play allows children to work out their emotions. When you’re playing you’re finding out about who you are. Play isn’t about fun. Even with very small children, you can see there is a symbolism to their play, there’s a meaning to it”. (taken from BBC news article ‘Generation of 'play deprivation').

Telegraph The three ingredients for a good play diet

Play is vital to the development of good physical and mental health as well as learning ( Best Play. What play provision should do for children)

Independent Britain's children: unhappy, neglected and poorly educated

Through play children explore social, material and imaginary worlds and their relationship with them, elaborating all the while a flexible range of responses to the challenges they encounter.

Children are getting less and less opportunity to PLAY as more and more structured ‘educational’ activities takes its place. Play deprivation is now recognised as a real issue

The National ‘Playwork Principles’ state:

"All children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is biological, psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and well being of individuals and communities."

"Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests in their own way and for their own." Playwork principles

Play can be provided by a host of different environments not just play areas, but also within Breakfast, After School and Holiday clubs, in the home, garden, beach, woods, parks, countryside, etc.

It is essential that we provide a wide variety of play opportunities for our children. Out of School clubs employ qualified and experienced Playworkers who have a good understanding of natural play.

It is equally important to recognise that play is not necessarily provided in structured activities such as sports clubs, drama clubs, etc. although the activities provided in these clubs also have a value.

Providing play is not an expensive challenging exercise. There are a number of free and easily accessible opportunities for play e.g. playing outside or indoors maybe in a bedroom, on the stairs or even in a cupboard! Play equipment is best when its free and easily accessible e.g. stones, wood, things you have in your home like sheets, pillows (excellent for a pillow fight) boxes, etc. Thirty Three Things Positively dirty - 9 May 2005 Positively Dirty Statistics Play Naturally a Review of Childrens Natural Play

It is also important to recognise the risk involved in play and the fact that this is an important part of positive child development, that minor accidents are part of play and a necessity for children to learn their own capabilities and develop their skills. No-one has learned to ride a bike without falling off! This is an acceptable danger as the benefit far out ways the risk. In this climate of Health & Safety anxieties it amazes us that people still let their children learn to swim! A very dangerous activity but again the benefit far out ways the risk.

Children's Play Council Managing Risk in Play Provision: A position statement

A message to Practitioners.

Play also provides opportunities for many practitioners e.g. schools, education and health professionals, social workers, etc. to support families and their children (all ages) to meet their health and educational targets e.g. tackling obesity, mental health problems, healthy eating & lifestyles, increases in concentration, self esteem, confidence, social skills & interaction, etc. It is equally important not to forget that once children (5 – 16/19) go to school they also need to play (even more so given the work they have to do at school).

Independent Britain's children: unhappy, neglected and poorly educated

Telegraph The three ingredients for a good play diet

Guardian Study reveals stressed out 7-11 year-olds

Independent We are failing our children - and risking our future

Playwork and Playworkers

Playworkers work to the Playwork Principles ( Playwork Principles) in order to create compensatory play spaces for children and young people, typically aged 4-16 to play. Playworkers don’t tell children and young people how to play or what to play. Instead they provide the space, time, stuff which can be played with e.g. dressing up clothes, make-up, sticks, stones, mud, water, boxes, balls and bikes and support them to play themselves. This enables children and young people to explore their world and their place within it and to develop at their own pace.

Playworkers realise that it is imperative for children and young people to have the opportunity to play freely and the value this brings in the acquisition of many and varied skills which are essential as part of holistic child development.

For more information about playwork and training Playwork

The importance of Play