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Summer of Play - National Play Day

Date: 3 August 2021
Author: Cllr Penny Frost
Title: Chair of the Education and Children’s Services Committee

National Play Day is upon us, and this year’s theme of ‘Summer of Play’ highlights that there is no better time than now to remember the importance of play for all our children and young people.

After so many bleak months of sitting at home, not joining up with friends, missing out on playdates, birthdays, Christmas parties and Easter activities, we are finally able to come out into the sunshine and take those first important steps to enjoy ourselves again, albeit staying as safe as possible while we do so.

I wanted to learn a little more about National Play Day, and so I checked the website, which listed so many important reasons for play:

  • Playing is essential for children’s mental health and wellbeing.
  • Playing helps children cope with stress and anxiety and fosters resilience, enabling children to better deal with challenges.
  • Playing gives children the opportunity to have fun, laugh, take time out, relax, and build friendships.
  • Playing outside allows children to appreciate nature, the environment, and feel part of their community.
  • Playing is fundamental to children’s happiness, and happy children lead to happier communities.

When we are all so concerned about the mental health of our children, it is lovely to remember that simple activities like playing outside with friends can help children regain their mental resilience, and their own increasing happiness will contribute to us all enjoying happier communities.

What’s the magic formula for successful play? There is no one thing which will transform everyday events into fun and relaxation, but we can all find some creative options. ‘Back garden cricket’ can involve the whole family, and the dog (careful of the upstairs windows if you are going for a 6).

Making a pizza for a picnic tea in the park gives everyone a chance to design their own slice, and then have the pleasure of eating it in the open air. A sandcastle competition in the sandpit, or a good splash in the paddling pool for your staycation are a great antidote to hours spent indoors hunched over a games machine. 

Playing never need be a raid on your wallet. Is it raining and you are indoors again? Try ‘Kim’s Game’, the test to name the items arranged on the tray and then hidden with the tea towel. 

The simple game of ‘I Spy’ helps engage children in what they see around them and will always break the tedium of a long car journey if you are lucky enough to be headed away on holiday this year.

Listen to your children playing with their friends. You will hear them invent games out of any situation, and their creativity will surprise you. So, the message to parents this National Play Day is - give them the space, some pals and a picnic, and let them enjoy their Summer of Play! Rain? What rain?

National Play Day takes place on Wednesday 4 August 2021.

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Updated: 19 October 2021