With Anita Grant, Chair of Play England  

As childhood memories go, oftentimes some of the most cherished moments are the ones in which we played freely. Getting to be imaginative, uninhibited and energetic are fantastic elements of being a kid. But as parents, we may not fully appreciate all of the actual benefits that playtime can offer our children. Far more than just providing fun, playing can actually support kids mentally, emotionally and physically. We spoke with Anita Grant from Play England, to learn five benefits of playtime for kids. 

Before we elaborate, it’s useful to define exactly what we’re talking about. 

What is ‘play’?

Play is what children do when they are allowed to interact with their world freely. Play arises from children’s own need to express themselves, explore, learn about and make sense of their world. Kids have an innate desire to play, and it’s essential for their growth. Play itself is not dependent on any equipment, materials or products – it can be quiet, boisterous, serious or light-hearted. As parents, we can best support our kids to play by giving them the freedom, time and space to do so.

5 Benefits of Play

  1. Emotional Well-being 
  2. Resilience
  3. Development
  4. Social Skills
  5. Strength

What are the benefits of playtime?

1.Emotional Well-being

Play is so important to children’s well-being that it has been enshrined as a fundamental right for children. Playing freely helps children to manage anxiety, stress and grief. When children play, they’re in control of what they do. This reassures them and allows them to work things out, feel independent and take things at their own pace. 

2. Resilience

Playing allows kids to feel free, try things out, and test boundaries, ideas and rules. This experimentation helps them to see the impact of their actions. Play allows children to learn how to assess and manage both physical and social risks and challenges in their lives. Through play, children investigate their own abilities, independence, as well as their personal interests.

 3. Development

Playing is integral to children’s enjoyment of life. Through playing, children are creating their own culture, developing their abilities, exploring their creativity and learning about themselves and their world. Children need and want to stretch and challenge themselves when they play. Children’s brains are built for play, and it helps them to find themselves in their world and their community.

 4. Social skills

Play is how children interact with others; it’s the way they communicate and feel connection to their peers. In this way, playing with other children can be very therapeutic. Through playing freely, without adult control, children learn how to respond and engage with other people in their lives. They learn how to communicate, care and share.

5. Strength 

In addition to boosting mental and emotional needs, play also boosts physical durability. Playing outdoors is fundamentally important for developing physical abilities, coordination and a sense of belonging with the environment. Physical movement in the open air allows children to feel free and confident to be themselves.

It’s worth noting that the lockdown period did change some of the play opportunities our little ones had. If you’re feeling worried about the after-effects of that restriction, the best thing you can do is take a step back. If we as parents allow it, play can happen organically, and offers kids a way to adapt and relate to what’s going on in their lives. Whilst parents can provide activities and ideas when kids get bored, it’s also really important to allow kids to have space and time in their day to come up with their own methods of play. 

We’re excited to get out there in the fresh air and let our kids interact with the world, as they play their way to becoming resilient, strong and emotionally capable people. We hope you and your family enjoy a lot of fun! 

Anita Grant is CEO of Islington Play Association and Chair of Play England. Anita has been working in the Play sector for over 20 years and is passionate about play and the need to protect the freedom of children to be able to enjoy their rights, engage in their world and work things out for themselves. 

Play England is the national organisation that campaigns, advocates for and supports play provision and play opportunities for all children throughout the country. For more information, please visit: https://www.playengland.org.uk

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