Its All About Play!

Who doesn’t love to play? Children are designed to play and it’s an intrinsic part of them and how they develop. However… Play can be a very undervalued activity, especially as children get older. Play can often be dismissed as a leisure activity and not valued as highly as more formal ‘learning’, but the two are completely intertwined. Play for children is learning and all learning is built on the foundations and skills developed during play.

What are the Benefits of Play?

The benefits of play are vast developing fine and gross motor skills, language and communication, spatial awareness, coordination, social skills and risk assessment and consequence – All important skills that children learn as they play and develop for the future.

Different types of play…

The ‘Balanced Play Diet’ is a useful visual tool created by Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide as it simply illustrates how important it is for children to have a balance of play in their lives. It’s impossible for them to have too much free, outdoor and active play as this is the ‘super-food’ of the play diet and gives children the opportunity to take risks, explore and socially interact and communicate with others. At the other end of the play pyramid is solitary screen time which needs to be moderated, as with for example sweets and snacks, to avoid children overindulging in screen-based activity. Children will thrive when they have access to a wide range of play and experiences.

Missing skills…

During the last 2 years children have been impacted by the events of lockdown and the lack of opportunity for variety in their play. We are seeing that some of their skills are underdeveloped and they need support to catch up on what’s been missed during this time. This includes active outdoor play, explorative play, messy play and social peer group play. All these are important to achieve that balance of play in their ‘play diet’.

Play is Everywhere…

The good news is play is everywhere and can be accessed in so many different ways. Being outside is a fantastic way to encourage big, physical play where children are more empowered to create their own play and interact with others. It’s also about creating play habits, about being outside every day engaging with nature and the world around them developing skills that they will take into adulthood with many mental health benefits. Giving children the physical tools to encourage this type of play is a great way to stimulate their imagination and showcase different ways to play. Opportunities for messy play using sand, water, mud and other natural materials are important from a sensory perspective to understand the world around them along with versatile outdoor play equipment to give visual cues for open-ended shared play and role play.

Essentially, we all need to become champions of play, positively encouraging it and providing as many opportunities as possible for children to access play. And remember, adults benefit from play too..!

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