UKEdMag: How play boosts success and happiness in children, by Sam Flatman

Let’s Play!

Success and happiness are what every parent wants for their child and every teacher for their students. How can we achieve this on a daily basis? New research has revealed what many parents and teachers have long suspected: you can boost children’s skill development and boost their well-being and happiness through playtime.

How Does Play Help?

Play enhances children’s physical, mental, emotional and social success and well-being says the report by Tim Gill ( Active play is essential in the development of locomotor skills (walking, running, jumping) and manipulative skills (throwing, catching, rolling) which support brain and nerve function. Ofsted noted that developing these skills during outdoor play can help young learners to combat a sense of underachievement and boost their confidence. Not only are children having a good time when they’re playing, but they’re also developing their skills and gaining a sense of well-being.

How Much Play Time Do Children Need?

Health experts recommend that children have 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, though unfortunately only a third of children currently achieve this. For school children, it’s vital that playtime is included during the school day. Just 20 minutes of outside play in green space improves children’s concentration inside the classroom. For children under the age of five who can walk on their own, it’s important that they are physically active for 3 hours each day. While PE lessons can be an excellent way to engage children in active play, studies have suggested that children are more physically active during free play than in their PE lessons. It’s, therefore, a good idea to have a combination of structured and free play. Outside of school, it is recommended that children have access to three or four afternoon/evening play opportunities

Successful Development

Unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Practising these skills enable children to better contend with real-life problems. On the social side of things, playtime improves children’s cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Playing with their peers is vital for the development of basic social skills and social competencies, whether it’s pushing each other on the swing or negotiating the position of a sandcastle. Playtime also provides opportunities for dramatic social play, which is good practice for the real world. A playhouse, for instance, might serve as a family home, a supermarket, or a doctor’s office. Practising these skills early on can provide a strong basis for successful interactions and relationships as children grow up.

Play is Beneficial for the Whole Family

The study further revealed that playtime was beneficial not just for the child, but for the whole family. Families who visit local playgrounds are more likely to report higher levels of family happiness. Parents also considered playgrounds and play initiatives in their area a good way to improve community spirit. Looks like it’s time that we all took our families out to play in the park! The full version of Tim Gill’s ‘The Play Return,’ commissioned by the Children’s Play Policy Forum (CPPF) can be found on his website

Sam Flatman has been working in the education and play sector for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. He is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum. Sam is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.

This article was first published in the March 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine. You can read the Online Version by Clicking here. The online version of this article was updated in 2020 by the UKEd Editorial team in accordance with website and policy changes.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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