The National Day for Play! | Playday

Playday is the national day for play; it is traditionally held on the first Wednesday of August and has been held every year since 1986. It is a day in which we celebrate children’s right to play and an opportunity for us to highlight the importance of play and a small insight into just how much can be learnt through play.

The theme for this year’s Playday is ‘All to play for – building play opportunities for all children.

This theme aims to highlight that play is for everyone. It is the right of every child and young person to have the opportunity to play. There is no age limit to play, no language to play, and no barriers to play. Play is more vital now to our young people than it has ever been because:

  • Play is essential for children and young people’s physical and mental health
  • Play allows children and young people to make friends, develop relationships and have fun together
  • Play enables children and young people to feel connected to their communities, leading to happier communities for all
  • Play is vital in helping children and young people cope with stress and anxiety, deal with challenges, and make sense of what is happening around them.

We speak about the importance of play and that it is vital for children, but what is play?

When children engage in play, or when we as adults lead their play, they aren’t setting out to learn, they are unaware of the objectives and the many benefits that come with it, and that’s what makes play so spectacular.

Our world is ever-changing, and through play, we equip children with the skills they need to adapt and change; who would have thought that a drone pilot would have been a job thirty years ago! Children are born scientists and engineers; if you watch your children play, you will observe as they experiment, imagine, work together and overcome emotions. Through play, children learn to navigate their path; they aren’t having to deal with facts and figures but have the freedom to think for themselves, use their imagination to create, test out their ideas and work together. All skills that, as adults, we use every day, and that is why play is so vital for children; as we can’t prepare children for every possible future, we can equip them with the skills they need to thrive.

Play can develop children’s physical skills by running and jumping or learning a new sport. Research also states that these physical activities are great feel-good activities as they release endorphins. Playing with others allows children to develop their social skills; it enables them to build empathy toward others and learn to collaborate. They learn to deal with emotions if something doesn’t always go to plan; they will learn to negotiate with others and how to help themselves or others when they become happy, sad or frustrated. During play, children will be exercising their brain cells; playing gives them joy and the incentive to develop complex problem solving and reasoning skills, improving their memory and concentration and always thinking of new strategies to deal with problems. Children also learn to trust their natural curiosity as they are encouraged to explore their creativeness during play. They can let their imagination run wild; they can imagine that they are a witch flying around on a broom, or they can design and create a parachute that will carry an egg and enable it to land safely……the possibilities indeed are endless.

Not only does play enable children to develop in every way, but it also positively impacts their mental wellbeing. It can help children to deal with the unknown. They can learn to be more resilient, more empathetic and more strategic. When children are playing, they enjoy themselves; when they enjoy themselves, their brain releases a chemical called Dopamine. This is a crucial part of how we motivate ourselves. Healthy levels of Dopamine are linked to better memory, creativity and mental flexibility… essential skills for living.

Create a Playday every day with our top tips:

Prioritise play – playing is as essential to children’s learning and development as their homework, reading and spelling. Still, playing is easier because it is what they want to do, so ensure you make time to play with your child/children.

Get out – whether going to a local park, finding different shaped leaves in the woods, or kicking a ball around a local field. Reap up the physical and mental benefits that being outside in nature can have

Limit Screen time – this not only counts for children but adults too. We spend so much time working, online shopping or catching up with social media that we are as guilty of too much screen time as our children. So, set some screen-free time to enjoy time together.