Working mum Michelle Heaton is the face of the new 'Make Time 2 Play Campaign', following results that over a third of children value entertainment technology over traditional play. She stopped by at Female First to talk to us about the importance of not relying on technology as a primary source of entertainment for our children.

Michelle Heaton

Michelle Heaton

For those who are unfamiliar with the campaign, please can you tell us a little bit about it?

The 'Make Time 2 Play Campaign' has been going since 2010 and today is the launch for 2015 after the report by Dr Sigman was released. It contains vital information about how we as parents and adults see the combination between play and education as well as what parents think about how we play with our kids and the affect is has on our children. What we found and talked about on Sky news was that 20% of parents believe that playing outside has a detrimental affect on the child's behaviour, learning and education, when it is the complete opposite. Active play outside has many beneficial qualities and I'm really shocked to see that some parents think the contrary.

Why is 'real world play' is so important for children?

I think it's really important to children because in today's society, technology is so prominent around us, we all play on our phones and we all go on social media. Even in schools and nurseries they have computers that they use to educate. There is nothing wrong with that at all but it's important to have that healthy balance. It's important to advocate healthy living, a good diet and fitness and I try to instil a healthy lifestyle and healthy balance with my kids. It shouldn't be any different with the way I educate them, so I have a really good balance with play education and technology education as well.

I am not bashing it at all but all people need to be aware that playing with their children in a greater capacity is a way of education them. Whether that be building a car with blocks and counting how many blocks or colours there are throughout the building exercise. Picking strawberries or fruits and counting how many you have in your basket. You can entertain your child for hours without technology.

Why do you think some parents believe play could impact negatively on their children's behaviour or grades?

I think when you say the word 'play', you think of 'play'- fun, playground nonsense; going out and running around and getting tired. What we are saying is- yes- play is fun, if it wasn't- children wouldn't enjoy it. When we use the term 'play', we say it because that's what the children see it as but what we are really doing is instilling really important life qualities into our children.

Why did you want to get involved in this campaign in the first place?

As a mum of two with very active children, with one who's starting to walk and talk and another who's three and half, I am forever thinking of ways to occupy them without reaching for the I Pad.

As a very busy mum, I do the cleaning up, the running around, the school runs, the cooking for the husband before he comes home. I have to time manage my day and I have to think of activities to give them to do. The great thing about the campaign is that they have launched an app, called 'Make Time 2 Play'. I downloaded the app a few days ago and I was constantly thinking of things to do in the car. I am always in the car and shipping them about because they come with me everywhere. They have got some amazing suggestions on there that I hadn't thought about and some really cool games to play outside. My daugther thinks she is having fun with mummy, and if she had the option of playing on the I pad or playing in the garden with mummy you are guaranteed to get the latter answer from this kids but you need to make it fun and exciting for them. The great thing about the app is that there are loads of those sorts of suggestions on there.

What are the most popular games with your children?

The simple things always work really well with my daughter like Eye Spy or with my son, catching the ball, so if he gets to the ball he can run around and sit back down. We find ways to implement it to make it more interesting such as things to do with his hands, like ball throwing and block building. My daughter is also using her imagination, so I don't mind if she gets a little bit bored. If I take away the TV and the technology and she comes to me while I'm in the kitchen and says 'I'm bored what can I do?' I say to her 'sit down and use your imagination'.

They have some really good imagination techniques on the app like 'pretend to make a cake', 'pretended that you're shopping with mummy'. Then she pushes her doll around in the buggy and pretends that she's getting can of beans off the shelf. That kind of exercise is going to use more of their brains than pushing a couple of buttons.

It is worrying that we are leaning towards a more virtual world for our children, so even with campaigns such as this in place, are you concerned that the virtual world of play will completely overtake the real world play one day?

It is scary but we all do it and I am not here to discredit that. We all use technology as a form of escapism, work, education, whatever it may be. It's just finding that balance. I think a fear that we all have is the unknown- are we all going to be overrun by robots at some point?!

It's crazy to think about how technology has evolved over the years. When I was younger there was none of this around and playing outside with my friends was as good as it got. It was good enough- if it was good enough then, why is it not good enough now? It's because we have all these other options and it's about limiting these other options. Give them a time period a day such as 30 minutes before playtime. Make that play time fun for them- think outside the box, not just give them toys and leave them to it, think about how they can role play with their toys.

Do you feel a sadness that we have moved away from simply playing out with our friends?

It is pretty sad, my mum goes back even further and she says that her fun and playing in her day was a spare cup on the table and some pennies. You flicked the penny and it went in or out of the cup and they would sit there all day playing that game. It's what tools you have. I'm sure there are many families in this world who don't have the technology that we have and I'm sure their kids are just as happy if not more so because they are using their imaginations for playing.

As a mum, what advice would you give to other mums who feel that they don't have much time to spend with their children to play?

First of all I would say- try not to feel too guilty. I do feel guilty that I don't spend enough time with my kids but I really do try my best. Don't feel too guilty as a working mum, just make sure you have some kind of balance and when you are at home- make that time count, get some great ideas from the app and play with them.

What's next for you?

I am always doing something- my main thing is my new channel which I have been doing for just over a year now. I think anyone who questions my loyalty to this campaign will see how important my life with my kids is on my channel. Most of my videos are family orientated- making cakes, having fun as a family on holiday and I can't stress that enough.

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