Lets return to play
The summer holidays are here and Covid restrictions are easing. It’s time to return to play! Playing out, playing together and playing just to enjoy life are all more important than ever for so many children and families after such a tough 18 months.
Play is more important than ever
Play, and in particular active play, is a vital way through which children will emerge from lockdown effectively.
It so important in their development as it provides children with the chance to explore themselves and the world around them in a way that suits them. It’s how children learn who they are and how they get to know their imaginations. Moreover, play is how they build trust in their own abilities (not only physical, but also emotional, psychological and relational) and develop trust with others.
In short, it is the fundamental arena within which children become who they are.
It’s also the primary way children get the physical activity they need.
However, the pandemic has had a huge impact on children’s right to play as a result of so many of their opportunities for play being shut down.
92% children felt the way they play had changed since the Covid pandemic (Save the Children, 2021)
51% said they were playing outside with their friends less (Save the Children, 2021)
23% were playing less than before the pandemic (Save the Children, 2021)
36% of children said that they’ve had fewer opportunities to be active (Greater Sport, 2021)
As a result of these drastic changes children reported the following impacts:
- Boredom (74%)
- loneliness (65%)
- Frustration (61%) (Morgul et al., 2020)
But now the sun is out and we are able to return to play. Together we can make play better than ever for children, so let’s do it!
However, this poses the question of “how as adults - coaches / activities leaders / parents or guardians - can we support children play in the most purposeful way possible?”
Here are some thoughts….
Supporting great play as an adult
At Boing we are all about supporting parents, guardians, coaches, activity leaders and community leaders alike to facilitate great play for children across the country.
What we have learnt (the hard way) over so many years of working with amazing practitioners is:
** The best thing we can do as adults is to set up play environments for children that invite them to solve problems, and offer them opportunities to act with imagination.
And…do that by doing as little as possible to get in the way. But, doing what we do do with as much purpose as possible. **
The reason for this; children are the experts at play, and play by definition is something the player has to decide on, own the direction of and engage with on their own terms.
That’s why we have created the Boing PlayUp Club. Check it out below for loads of ways to create engaging play environments for children.
Sport England have also put together some great advice on how to get back out there, and what you can do to help everyone return to play safely and better than ever.
Check it out here
The six magic ingredients
So what is great play exactly?
To us, great play is when the rules of the games are not getting in the way and enforcing limits on where the players can take the game to or hindering them engage in the way they want to.
At Boing, we think there is play, and then there is ‘Play!’, and ‘Play!’ involves at least some, if not all, of these magic ingredients:
And why exactly are these particular ingredients magic, I hear you ask...
Being active - Playing whilst being active will develop a love for physical activity that will last a lifetime!
Fun - If play is fun, then players are more likely to do it again another time.
Imagination - Playing with imagination will develop players’ ability to make play what they want it to be and make it work for them.
Adventure - Adventure in play will lead to being more willing to explore the unknown and investigate new places!
Creativity - Being creative whilst playing is where the resilience and thinking skills needed to tackle any situation, any space and any problem are made.
Collaboration - Playing together to achieve a goal, go on a mission together or create something new can build trust with others that can last forever.
Therefore, our job as adults is to make sure we know what great play looks like, know the different ingredients that make up great play and then create environments for children to play in that include some or all of them.
The paradox of play
So, try not to get in the way with too many rules or complicated game mechanics, but that doesn’t mean don’t get involved at all.
Once we have set a play environment, one of the most effective things we can do is to find a way of playing with children - as equals - not always as facilitators. Be present in that play, evolve that environment together and engage with it fully as a play partner to the children.
This is especially true for parents and guardians.
Through playing together, indulging their ideas, saying yes to what their imagination comes up with, completing missions as a team and solving problems together, trust and connection builds up. This trust and connection can cement bonds that last for years, and help children become adults who want to form relationships with others and see the best in the world around them.
So, there are some thoughts on play, what it is, why it's great, why it's more important than ever and what we as adults can do to support children return to play.
You can also find ways of making sure you’re using all these magic ingredients to make play as great as possible in the Boing PlayUp Guide.
Hope you find it useful!
Stay safe and #PlayYourWay