National Play Day
National Play Day is recognised each year to mark the importance of play for children, not only for their learning development but also to help foster healthy emotional development and well-being too. This year’s theme is ‘playing on a shoestring – making every day an adventure.’
So, with the summer holidays in full swing, what better time to read this week’s blog on all things play and see how you can keep the children entertained in low-cost ways, whilst giving their well-being a boost too!
Why is play so important for healthy child development?
It was once said that toys for children are like words – and play, their language. Play is the primary way that children learn to communicate and understand the world around them. It allows children to communicate in ways they have not yet developed the language skills to fully explain. We can tell a lot about a child when we watch them play since play for children is used to make sense of and process events they experience in their life. It also helps them to:
- Build resilience. Through play, children are able to make mistakes and to explore different roles. As children explore new ideas, they can gain a greater sense of control over their environment and problem-solve scenarios they struggle to make sense of in real life.
- Establish a sense of fun! Play is an excellent way for children to get creative and to develop their imagination. The use of imagination in our work with children and young people is so important in facilitating positive changes in their lives. When children are able to imagine, they create their own stories – which can lead to powerful positive change. It encourages children to take healthy risks in their own lives and explore new ideas.
- Overcome challenges. As Playday.org states, “play is essential at all ages and stages of childhood, and is particularly important during times of crisis.” Children learn healthy ways of coping with challenges through play. It allows them to explore and re-enact difficulties they are experiencing in real life, giving them an outlet to explore their experiences and release emotions such as anger and frustration in safe ways. Even more, play allows a child to relax and process worries and build their own capacity to cope. I’m sure we’ve all noticed how our child’s play can become very repetitive. This is a natural and important stage of child development and is also a way for them to understand experiences and learn to think.
- Develop social skills. Children learn social rules and norms through play when engaged in play with others or with their own caregiver or parent. It is an opportunity for them to practise social cues and learn from others.
- Develop a sense of empathy. Children develop important life skills, such as a sense of empathy when engaged with a caregiver or parent through play. When an adult can model empathy during playful scenarios, it allows children to observe and learn from them.
- When babies are born, they have many billion brain cells but not many connections between these cells (known as synapses).
- Time spent in connection with your little one helps to build up the synapses and sparks learning and the development of neural pathways – which is essentially what allows us to remember things and create healthy behaviours and habits.
- Spending time in play, particularly alongside your child, fuels the development and strengthens these neural pathways. During infancy, children develop far more connections, or synapses, than they will need in their lifetime and the ones that are used most regularly become stronger, whilst those that are not used frequently become weaker.
This is essentially how we learn (and unlearn) and is a key part of the neuroscience that underpins the change work we perform in our sessions with children and young people.
How to get involved in Play Day
So, if you’ve been reading so far and are impressed by the endless benefits play can bring to your child’s development and mental health and well-being, then today on #PlayDay is a great opportunity to get involved in some of the initiatives this charity is running.
Getting your children involved in play does not need to cost a small fortune and is something that can be easily enjoyed anywhere for free! Often the simplest of ideas can bring great amounts of fun and opportunities for play (who remembers the fun of a cardboard box?!)
Playday.org events happen all across the country and include:
- Street parties
- Park festivals
- Woodland adventures
- Public events at community centres
- Meet ups at local beaches
To get involved and to find events near you, visit: https://www.playday.org.uk/about-playday/
Wishing you and your family lots of fun and adventure this Play Day 2023 – keep a lookout for our social media posts this weekend and get sharing the fun!