What do children do when they are not in school?

Play dominates children’s lives in the family and community in the other fifty-one minutes of their waking hours.

What is play?

  • Play is what children are driven to do by their nature; they will play anywhere and everywhere, at anytime
  • Play is seen as behaviour that is freely chosen and personally directed

This site offers a range of sections related to play. To view these click below:

The Children’s Play Council say…

“the time that children spend at school is only a fraction of their lives. Between birth and sixteen, children attend school for nine minutes of every waking hour”

“play – it’s a part of children, it should be”

“play helps you learn like school does, it’s fun. It helps you stay fit and it’s important to have friends”

“it makes you healthy when you’re playing and running…it makes you enjoy yourself, you just enjoy yourself by playing. Playing is fun and good”

Play should always be:

  • Involving
  • Passionate
  • Fun
  • Satisfying
  • Creative
  • Stimulating
  • Social
  • ‘Out of the box’
  • Challenging

Never mind the dirt, have fun! Guardian, July ‘05 -33 things to do before you are 10:

  1. Make a den
  2. Climb a tree
  3. Build a sandcastle
  4. Make a papier mache mask
  5. Grow cress on a windowsill
  6. Make perfume from flower petals
  7. Collect frogspawn
  8. Make your own play dough
  9. Make a mud pie
  10. Roll down a grassy bank

What do we mean by play and playwork?

  • Play is what children are ‘driven’ to do to help them grow up; they will play anywhere and everywhere
  • Play is seen as behaviour that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated
  • Children will play in formal play areas in nurseries, schools, clubs and parks; they will also play in the supermarket, the street, in derelict sites and woodland
  • Through play, children experience their world and their relationship with it
  • Playwork is what adults do to help provide opportunities for play. This involves the creation, operation and change of many physical and human environments that maximise opportunities for children to access a wide variety of play experiences. Such experiences include make-believe, risk, and personal control, excising their bodies and experimenting with identity, ideas and the environment.

The benefits of sport and play

  • Fun, achievement and enjoyment
  • Better health and well-being
  • Increased self esteem
  • Better physical co-ordination, large muscles and fine dexterity
  • Better sense of how to assess risk
  • Better sense of identity and understanding of others
  • Better understanding of teams and people, ‘group dynamics’
  • Improved creativity
  • Greater sense of safety, protection from harm
  • More choice and increased responsibility
  • More involvement, participation and citizenship
  • Improved concentration

Expected long term benefits

  • Health and well-being; Happier and healthier children
  • Achievement and enjoyment; Confident children with a sound basic range of skills and abilities
  • Participation and citizenship; Better citizens
  • Protection; better safety for children, more choice for families
  • Responsibility; Engaged young people – so that they are not socially excluded or alienated, reduced juvenile crime
  • Inclusion; Improved equality of opportunity for all, community cohesion

The therapeutic benefits of play

  • Better health and well-being
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Better sense of how to assess risk
  • Better sense of identity and understanding of others

Benefits of Play – What the Experts Say:

“The main characteristic of play – child or adult – is not its content, but its mode. Play is an approach to action, not a form of activity”.

Jerome Bruner, 1989

“Children’s play… represents a critically important feature of [children’s] development of cognitive and emotional skills”.

Singer, 1994 [Best Play]

“What is acquired through play is not specific information but a general (mind) set towards solving problems that includes both abstraction and ‘combinatorial flexibility’ where children string bits of behaviour together to form novel solutions to problems requiring the restructuring of thought or action.”

Sylva, 1977 [Best Play]

Many of the attributes enhanced by play are found to be helpful in developing resilience:

“Those children who have good communication skills, a positive attitude, a problem solving approach and the capacity to reflect tend to be more resilient. The ability to plan, a belief in control, a sense of humour are all qualities that can lead to resilience.”

Mental Health Foundation, 1999 [Best Play]

“One way this emotional healing seems to occur spontaneously – at least in children – is through [re-enactment] games … These games, played over and over again, let children relive a trauma safely as play.”

Goleman, 1996 [Best Play]

The problems of inactivity…

  • 10% of today’s four year old’s are obese
  • In 1970, 90% of primary school children walked to school; now 90% go by car
  • Children need 60 minutes activity every day
  • Less than 50% are achieving this
  • At 15 years, 70% of girls live a totally sedentary life
  • Physical inactivity currently costs the nation £2bn a year or 54,000 lives lost prematurely
  • Ritalin is prescribed to ‘hyperactive children.’ 254,000 doses were prescribed in 2002

Play Deprivation

Play deprivation can cause increased anti-social behaviour and increased risk of obesity. It also causes reductions in:

  • Brain growth and flexibility
  • Physical ability in tasks
  • Levels of physical activity
  • Resilience to deal with stressful or traumatic events
  • Social skills, causing difficulties in negotiating social situations, e.g. dealing with conflict and cultural differences