The end of the school holidays has arrived, which often signals for kids the time set aside for them to play at home will now decrease. It may also mean for many hardworking and busy parents, that they will become more reliant on schools to provide their kids with the vital opportunities for play kids need.
Whether your child has just started kindergarten or is about to finish high school, no age is too old to play. At every stage of childhood, there are opportunities for play and benefits to be had from play.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises play as every child’s basic right. What parents and educators need to consider is how we can ensure a child’s right to play is adequately met and children are reaping the benefits of play.
This is becoming increasingly complex in a time when parents and children are becoming busier and busier, children are spending more time with technology, and the time and space for play in some schools is becoming increasingly tight.
What researchers are finding is some parents are becoming more reliant on the school setting for their child’s play. This is understandable given that schools often have a budget or resources for play and times set aside for play at recess and lunch. This setting can lead parents to reduce the priorities for play at home because they believe their kids are getting enough play at school.
We need to stop segregating the difference between both play and work or play being at home or school. Play needs to happen inside and outside of school. We also need to remember that valuable play can be messy, chaotic and involve moderate levels of risk for kids to think ‘I can overcome this challenge’.
In order to maximise kids’ play, as parents we can think about how play can be valued in the home and what we can do to incorporate play at home.
Dedicating a regular time for play in the home can create an atmosphere and expectation that play isn’t just at school or at home. A really simple recommendation to incorporate play at home is to set aside one hour where the devices are turned off, and the kids get the chance to come up with the types of play they want to do – whether that be social, cognitive or physical play.
Turning the devices off for an hour of play is something I regularly do with my own daughter, and I think it is something many other families will enjoy and can easily do at home more often. Scheduling a time for play also creates opportunities for parents to join their kids in play. When parents routinely schedule time for play at home, kids can look forward to coming home even more so, rather than thinking home is the place where parents do chores and kids do homework.
There are many well-known health benefits of play, including improving self-esteem, confidence, and resilience, and strengthening social interactions through negotiating, observing, modelling and role playing. Providing time and space for more active play can also ensure children meet national physical activity recommendations which are vital to prevent the onset of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
By incorporating the different types of play into a child’s day, and by providing opportunities for children to play at school and at home, and anywhere in between, parents are taking a holistic view of play and maximising the opportunities for their children to reap the benefits of play.
To hear more from Dr Brendon Hyndman on the topic of play, listen to the Feed Play Love podcast available on Spotify.