Importance of PLAY-Work in children and young people’s lives
Importance of PLAY-Work in children and young people’s lives- A Children & Young Person Now Report
Play secured a funding spurt and national strategy a decade ago, but austerity put paid to much of its ambition. Yet new initiatives and spaces for children to play are vital to social and emotional wellbeing.
Play can be crucial in helping get the best start in life. Picture: Play England
Play is essential to childhood development, whether it takes place in parks and open spaces, playgrounds, or out on the street. Play promotes imagination and creativity, builds resilience through risk taking, aids social skills, and improves physical and mental health.
The Playwork Principles – established to describe what is unique about play – define it as “a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play”. For some children – particularly those experiencing trauma or disabilities – it can also be used therapeutically to help communicate feelings and overcome anxieties.
Societal changes over the past 20 years have led to reduced opportunities for children to play outdoors – fears over “stranger danger”, rising road traffic and street gangs have seen parents become more cautious. The development of park and school land, closures of playgrounds due to austerity and the lure of the online world have added further barriers to children and young people playing outside.
Despite this, recognition is growing among policymakers of the link between early play experiences and involvement in physical activity in later childhood. There is also growing evidence of the benefit it has for children’s ability to learn and problem-solve.
CYP Now‘s special report on play and play work brings together latest developments in the factors driving play policy, emerging research evidence on its benefits for childhood wellbeing, and four examples of innovative practice.