The Right to Play

A survey for the British Psychological Society (BPS) has revealed that more than three-quarters of parents of primary-aged children believe play is now more than or just as important as academic catch-up, amid fears the pandemic has reduced opportunities for their children to engage in playtime at school.

96% of parents who responded to the BPS survey said access to playtime in the primary school day was important for their children.

Yet research shows that since 1995, children’s break times in the school day in the UK have been reduced by 45 minutes a week, resulting in eight out of ten children now having less than one hour of physical activity per day.

Inspiring Scotland is promoting the importance of active play in schools. That’s different than timetabled physical education lessons – its active play, and increasingly important as fewer children have opportunities to play outdoors in their communities.

Active Play is simple: it boosts physical activity in children and helps them develop fundamental movement skills such as coordination and balance, all through playing physically active games.

Inspiring Scotland

As a result of the findings, the BPS is launching a Time to Play campaign to put more play back in the school day, restore the playtime eroded and reverse the negative impact on children’s wellbeing and development.

Play is important.

“It’s important to understand the role play has in children’s development to really understand why we are campaigning to get more play in the school day. Play is fundamental to children’s health and wellbeing. It can develop children’s skills in coping with challenge, facing uncertainty and how to be flexible and adaptable to different circumstances.”

Dr Dan O’Hare, co-chair of the BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology

The YouGov survey, commissioned by the BPS, had more than 1,500 respondents from across the UK. Key findings include:

  • 96 per cent of parents surveyed said access to playtime in the school day was either very important (79 per cent) or important (17 per cent) for their children
  • 79 per cent of parents said play was more important or equally as important as academic catch up for their children post-pandemic.
  • 69 per cent were very or fairly concerned that the pandemic has impacted on the opportunities their children have for unstructured playtime at school.
  • 61 per cent ranked social development as the most important benefit of play to their child.

Dr Dan O’Hare, co-chair of the BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology, said:

  “It’s clear from the survey findings that play is valued highly by parents.

“This isn’t an ‘ask’ for more playtime, it’s about reclaiming what has been lost. “

The BPS is calling for a focus on unstructured, child-led play in school, highlighting its benefits including aiding social development, problem solving and physical development as vital priorities alongside academic catch-up. 

Dr O’Hare added:

“We know that pre-pandemic children’s playtime has been eroded and now, against the landscape of ‘academic catch up’ after lockdowns, closures and pressure on children and schools, this issue is even more urgent.

“Reduced opportunities to play will likely have a negative impact on the wellbeing and development of children, and it is vital that we don’t forget that children have also missed out on play with their friends, physical activity and fun.

“The intrinsic value of play is that it brings entertainment, enjoyment and freedom to children. It is important that there are opportunities for all children to have high quality play throughout the school day, regardless of their needs, skills and abilities.”

2 replies »

  1. Playtime for children at school and home are essential, as is imaginative playfulness for adults of all ages. We all need a bit of wonder and Wow! in our lives…

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