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The Power of Play

15 June 2022

We’re focusing on the power of play this summer. Here we tell you why.

If there’s one thing staff in our Early Years services are guaranteed to take seriously it’s play.  Our staff know play is essential to the development of healthy, happy children and, consequently, adults. And, from their experience working with the whole family, they know that play doesn’t just help with children’s development – it’s also beneficial for family bonding and wellbeing.
That’s why for us playtime isn’t a reward: it’s an end in itself.

Our Early Years Manager Karen puts it best when she says: “You can’t underestimate the power of play… but that power is only unlocked when we don’t try to turn play into work and instead recognise children’s instinctive curiosity and playfulness”.

“You can’t underestimate the power of play… but that power is only unlocked when we don’t try to turn play into work and instead recognise children’s instinctive curiosity and playfulness”.

Early Years Manager, Karen

Recent research we undertook with our partners FisherPrice™ Play Lab told us that parents of under-fives are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their children’s development, with their biggest worries relating to their social skills, language, motor skills and numeracy. 

We share the belief that supporting families to play more together is part of the solution, allowing for development of children’s “formal” skills such as maths and literacy, as well as promoting softer skills like spatial awareness and social skills that are essential for helping children grow more independent and form positive relationships. 

The wide benefits of play for children and families 

By allowing children to invent situations that enable them to experience difficult emotions such as fear, sadness, anger and disgust, play also gives
children the opportunity to explore reactions and consequences – so those poo jokes they keep making are fine, honestly! Play also develops children’s curiosity, creativity, and confidence and it strengthens their bodies, minds and resilience – setting them up to thrive.   

We’ll be sharing more insight and evidence from our child development experts over the next few weeks on how play can support key child development milestones for children under five, support family bonding and benefit adults’ and children’s wellbeing. 

As you can see the topic of play is a complex one, and it can feel difficult to know where to start when supporting our children to get the most from it.  

Play doesn’t need any special equipment, and our Early Years services, such as pre-schools and parent and toddler groups, use everyday, low cost and, ideally, natural items – something we will be covering in a range of play activities designed for families on a budget. 

It’s important to make time for outdoor play, but we know from the government’s COVID statistics that one in eight households have no access to private or shared gardens.
Thankfully this too is not required… a local park or even communal street space is a more than adequate playground for our children. 

The important role we can play as parents and carers  

Essentially what this means is that as parents and professionals we also need to know when to step back and let the experts – the children themselves – take charge. We believe play should be child-led, but also know that parents, carers and extended family members play an important role in a child’s playtime. Helping to enable self-led play and gentle, responsive interaction while a child plays can be hugely beneficial to their development and overall wellbeing. However, parents and carers have told us that they can find it a challenge to play with their children – whether that is due to a lack of time, know-how, motivation or pressure to ‘get it right’.   

“There’s no right or wrong way to play, there’s no right or wrong answers. So they can have all these experiences in a worry free way.”

Fisher-Price™ Play Lab expert, Dr. Lisa Lohiser

We appreciate the pressures on families and are here to help; over the summer we will be sharing practical guidance from our child development experts on how to create engaging play spaces, fun, simple, low-cost activities that the whole family can enjoy (including the adults, we promise!) and the small actions you can take to help your child get the most from it.

Finally, it’s worth understanding that, as much as we trumpet the value of play for learning and development and family bonding it has an even greater function – that of creating happiness. In our experience, we know that happy children learn more because they are eager to spend time at pre-school with their friends and staff. But it’s not just about learning as, if we’re honest, what most of us would want for the children we work with, and our own children, is for them to have happy, fulfilled lives.   

Play gives us the tools to do so and can help both adults and children escape from the uncertain and unsettling times we are living through. Our ambition is for the whole family to be able to enjoy play and the benefits it brings together. Join us for a summer of play that will help you strengthen the relationship with your child and create moments of family fun to remember forever. 

Follow us on Instagram or Facebook to enjoy and benefit from our summer of play. If you’d like to receive practical guidance and play activities from our child development experts direct to your inbox, please sign up to our newsletter.