Parents, let’s play together

Message and call for action on World Play Day (28 May) and International Children’s Day (29 May) 2016

Did you know that playing a lot as a child also helps you to have a better job when you are an adult? Play helps children to have higher IQ, to have better self-control and also to relax, thus play is essential for all children and they should not be deprived of it at any circumstances, it doesn't matter if they are refugees or attending expensive private schools.

If you remember the last time you engaged in a good game of Activity or Scrabble, you will agree with the opinion that it is very similar in the case of adults. This is why European parents applaud the choice of topic for World Play Day 2016, 'Play for all ages'.  Playing definitely is not only for children, and we are doing our best to encourage parents and grandparents to play. As WPD is the day before International Children’s Day, this weekend should all be about children and playing. We are calling parents and guardians to share what they are playing to celebrate the day with the #WorldPlayDay and #ParentsPlay hashtags this weekend. (Please protect the privacy of your children and do not post photos with their faces in it.)

An opinion piece in the New York Times the week before World Play Day called readers’ attention to interesting research evidence from Jamaica on the crucial role of play in the lives of children as well as in their lifetime success, and the need for parents to understand, encourage and engage in it. It is easy to get the message: for a successful life, you need to become lifelong players and educate your children to follow your example.

The European Parents’ Association (EPA) has joined PlayFutures with the aim of bringing research evidence on the benefits of learning through play to reach policy makers, and encourage new activities to inspire the crucial role of parenting, influencing educators and thus target innovation to create a world that values learning through play. The PlayFutures community is just starting up, but we encourage you to sign-up on the community website to follow the progress as it evolves.

Playtime deprivation is spreading from over-regulated lives of children and adults to even the third world. This is one of the reasons EPA has supported the establishment of the International Parents’ Network with the aim to encourage transcontinental dialogue for a better future of all children, that must be a playful one. This is why our message for World Play Day is ‘Parents, let’s play together’. And we are inviting everybody to help us in getting the message heard.

Responsible parents all want to raise happy children. To become a happy person you need to be healthy, be in a social position that satisfies you and to have the funds to support yourself. The later means to have a good job for most people. For any parent it is a great concern to provide their children with all the support necessary to achieve this. Healthy food and environment as well as a good schooling – whatever it means in the 21st century – are obvious elements.  At the same time it may not be so obvious for all parents why games and playing are as important as the others. We have to help parents who do not understand that playing, using games and toys wisely helps them to spend quality time with their children while giving them essential means of learning.
'Parental involvement in the form of ‘at-home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement and adjustment even after all other factors shaping attainment have been taken out of the equation. In the primary age range the impact caused by different levels of parental involvement is much bigger than differences associated with variations in the quality of schools. The scale of the impact is evident across all social classes and all ethnic groups.' Desforges 2003
Play may be considered a waste of time by some traditionally thinking adults, but we must be determined to change this mindset. There is a need to translate the outcomes of the growing number of studies available that show us that play has many educational benefits from academic language to the language of everyday life. We have known since 1950’s that playing is essential for the cognitive, emotional, social and physical development of children from the moment of their birth, but the professionals whose job is to help young parents often cannot get this message through – or they are not aware of it themselves. We have also learnt that is helps to ease stress and anxiety, sometimes caused by the parents themselves or the school. It should be obvious for all adults that playing is as essential for a child as eating and drinking. This is what we are determined to promote and we are calling professionals to help us in doing so. Let’s not transmit confusing messages to parents who wish for the best, but are lost in the labyrinth of the information age.

In the past decades the choice of toys and games on the market has skyrocketed producing specified toys for all kinds of activities while what children need most is unstructured play with as many non-specific toys as possible. If you have ever seen a child playing with a stone for hours and enjoying it you understand, but you may not have thought what part it plays in the education of the child. It is reassuring to see that there are toy producers who are willing to invest in promoting play and the educational value of it without trying to sell you their product. At the same time, we still buy toys, and parents also need professional and peer support to make decisions when buying that are both educational and ethical. This is why the European Parents’ Association has been planning to introduce a seal of recommendation for games and toys for all ages to help parents in their decision.

Eszter Salamon

European Parents' Association

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