Today thousands of children and young people across the UK will be celebrating Playday – the national day for play. Now in it’s 29th year, Playday provides the ideal opportunity for communities to come together to celebrate, play together and have fun. It also promotes the benefits and positive impact that playing has on children’s mental and physical health, well-being and development.
Dr Mike Shooter, former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Chair of Play Wales said: “Play is essential to our cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. As a doctor and psychiatrist, I have dealt at first hand with the disastrous consequences that may result from a lack of opportunity to play and adults’ inability to let it happen. Young people become fearful of the world in every way and will grow up into parents who will block their own children’s development in turn.
“Watching TV and working the computer are important, and so is organised recreation like sport. But they are not nearly so important for development as free-for-all, rough-and-tumble play. And research is proving it. So turn everything off and get out there to celebrate Playday. And remember, while you’re having fun, that this is the very best thing you can do.”
Bright Kids nurseries are geared up to ensure play is an integral part of every child’s day. Each of the nurseries has areas indoors and outdoors where youngsters are encouraged to use their imagination and create their own games. Anita Shepherd, manager at the Crabbs Cross Nursery, said their outdoor area has lots of natural resources which encourage children to develop their own play. “We have items such as wooden blocks, netting and tyres that the children can use to turn into shops, boats and cars – and let their imaginations go wild,” she said.
“There are also planting areas where the children are free to come up with their own games based on their natural surroundings. We understand that play is one of the most important things a child can do, and we see them learning through play. If you sit a child down and try to teach them they don’t easily learn. However, give them the space, the environment and resources and you can see their imaginations help them to learn. And we are here to enable that – if a child’s imaginative play is limited we are here to help and encourage them and we can see their confidence growing.”
Kerrie McCaffery, deputy manager at the Bright Kids Nursery in Northfield, agreed and said they see a lot of learning being done through play. “We see the children using a lot of role play outside and this changes every day according to what the children are interested in,” said Kerrie. “We have free-flowing play so the children go easily go from inside to outside and this helps with their learning. So, recently the preschool children read Shark in the Park and then did some modelling of sharks outside. We see that play helps them in every area as their imagination helps them to learn and we can teach them things like numbers and shapes while they are playing.”
Playday is coordinated by Play England, in partnership with Play Wales, Play Scotland and PlayBoard Northern Ireland. In 1991, the UK government ratified the United Nations convention on the rights of the child. The Playday campaign is committed to achieving the full implementation of this right, to ensure all children in the UK can play. Article 31 of the convention states that: Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.
For more information on Playday, and to see some of the activities in your area, go to www.playday.org.uk
Photo 1: Ashleigh Bott aged 4yrs creating her very own castle.
Photo 2: Jack White aged 2yrs creating his very own train