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Creative Children's Play Linked to Healthy Adult Lifestyles

24/04/2010

The British Psychological Society published a report at its annual conference last week which stated that creative child’s play sets a firm foundation for a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle as an adult.

The report was based upon a study which found that adults whose childhood had featured a heavy emphasis on creative play were more likely to enjoy a healthier diet and lifestyle – including more regular exercise – than those people who had access to creative and outdoor play limited as children. Such adults were more likely to be overweight and unhealthy, said the Society.

The findings were welcomed by campaign group Play England, which is calling for more safe outdoor play areas to be made available for children.

Play England assistant director Catherine Prisk commented: “Play is important to children's emotional health and wellbeing, and it is through play that children learn about who they are in the world and how the society they live in - their family and friends, their community, their peers and their country - is socially constructed.”

“Children simply don't get the opportunities that we did when we were children to play outside. Research - and common sense - tells us that play is vital for children's emotional and physical health, as well as helping them to develop both physical and social skills,” she said.

However Ms Prisk warned that “space and opportunity” are essential if children are to get the most enjoyment and health benefits from their play experience. She said that “local play parks or spaces that feel playful” were essential, along with the presence of “people trained in developing good play opportunities so that their parents feel confident leaving them.”

She went on to say that there were many barriers to play in the modern world, such as “traffic, commerce, a public realm that takes little account of children, fear of predators and bullying, increased demands on their structured time and society’s ambivalent attitude to young people,” which all contributed to the problem of the “battery reared child” and led in turn to later problems of unhealthiness, obesity and anti-social behaviour. Ms Prisk also stressed that these problems could just be “the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential damage to our future generations.”

Play England is promoting its Manifesto for Children's Play – a document which calls on all the political parties campaigning in the general election to make a commitment to the children of the UK and ensure that they have the same access and freedom to play that their predecessors enjoyed.

The National Lottery’s “Big Lottery Fund” is also spearheading a Children’s Play initiative, which seeks to “create, improve and develop children and young people’s free local play spaces and opportunities throughout England.”

The £155 million campaign is based on recommendations contained in the 2004 report Getting Serious About Play, which supports the idea that creative play helps develop children’s skills and their imaginations. It defines play as “what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas, in their own way and for their own reasons.”

 


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