Every year Play England holds a national campaign to celebrate children’s right to play, National Playday. Hundreds of events take place across the country on the first Wednesday in August every year, giving thousands of children the opportunity to have a great day out.
Play England, creators of the event, believes that good play opportunities are a vital part of a happy, healthy childhood. Parents have a key role in ensuring that children enjoy a rich diet of play experiences and get the most out of their free time. Being a ‘playful parent’ isn’t just about spending time with your child, it’s also about creating the opportunity for children to play on their own and with their friends.
When playing with children it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it. So rather than give you a list of activities, these tips aim to get you to think about the way you spend your time playing together with your children.
Cath Prisk, Director of Play England, shares her top ten dos and donts with Parents, ahead of the 25-year-old event.
1. Do give your children the chance to choose what game they want to play and how they want to do it. Forcing them to do something they don’t like, or find too difficult, just isn’t fun.
2. Don’t solve every task for your child; encourage them to solve the problem themselves. Doing something for a child isn’t playing.
3. Do remember that all children are different: some like physical energetic play, some love word games, some are born to perform and some can’t stop making things (and destroying them). So think about the kinds of activities your child likes and let them take the lead.
4. Don’t be a 'competitive mum or dad'. Children often say parents play to win. Learning how to lose is an important social skill, but try to keep games enjoyable and let them win too - sometimes!
5. Don’t be afraid to join in with your child’s make-believe games. Children love it when parents play act and it lets their imaginations run wild.
6. Do let your children enjoy physical challenges such as climbing trees. Children learn through taking risks. Don’t be overly protective if the worst that can happen is a bump or a scrape.
7. Do get out of doors and play: it’s healthier and more fun - and if they get dirty or wet, well that’s what baths and washing machines are for. (That goes for messy play indoors too).
8. Do let children teach you how to play with their toys or computer games. They will take great pleasure in the role reversal and telling you what they know.
9. Do share a game you used to play as a child, like hopscotch or making camps. Think of the things you most enjoyed playing. The chances are your children will enjoy the same things.
10. And finally - enjoy playing. If your child is having fun but you aren’t, just leave them to it. If they’re not having fun, suggest something else.
To find out more about Playday and Play England visit www.playengland.org.uk
Shabana Adam @Shabana_FAM