Success and happiness are what every parent wants for their child. We love our little ones to be smiling and giggling, running and jumping, and feeling confident and knowing that play time is how can we achieve this on a daily basis.

Play time!

What many parents have long suspected: you can boost your child’s skill development and increase their happiness through play time.

How Does Play Help Happiness?

According to a new report by Independent Rearcher, Tim Gill, play enhances children’s physical, mental, emotional and social success and well-being. As you’d imagine, active play is essential in the development of locomotor skills (walking, running, jumping) and manipulative skills (throwing, catching, rolling) which support brain and nerve function. However, Ofsted also noted that developing these skills during outdoor play can help young learners to combat a sense of underachievement and boost their confidence. Not only are children having a good time when they’re playing, but they’re also developing their skills and gaining a sense of well-being.

How Much Play time Do Children Need?

Health experts recommend that children have 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity play time per day, though unfortunately only a third of children currently achieve this.

For children under the age of five who can walk on their own, it’s important that they are physically active for 3 hours each day. For school children, it’s vital that play time is included during the school day. Just 20 minutes of outside play in green space improves children’s concentration inside the classroom.

While PE lessons can be an excellent way to engage children in active play, studies have suggested that children are more physically active during free play than in their PE lessons. It’s therefore a good idea to have a combination of structured and free play. Outside of school, it is recommended that children have access to three or four afternoon/evening play opportunities during the week.

Successful Development

Unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Practising these skills enable children to better contend with real life problems. On the social side of things, play time improves children’s cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Playing with their peers is vital for the development of basic social skills and social competencies, whether it’s pushing each other on the swing or negotiating the position of a sandcastle.

Playtime also provides opportunities for dramatic social play, which is good practice for the real world. A playhouse, for instance, might serve as a family home, a supermarket, or a doctor’s office. Practising these skills early on can provide a strong basis for successful interactions and relationships as children grow up.

Play is Beneficial for the Whole Family

The study further revealed that play time was beneficial not just for the child, but for the whole family. Families who visit local playgrounds are more likely to report higher levels of family happiness. Parents also considered playgrounds and play initiatives in their area a good way to improve community spirit. Looks like it’s time that we all took our families out to play in the park!

The full version of Tim Gill’s ‘The Play Return,’ commissioned by the Children’s Play Policy Forum (CPPF) can be found on his website Rethinking Childhood.

Author Bio: Sam Flatman has been working in the education and play sector for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. He is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport, who design innovative playgrounds for UK schools. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum. Sam is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.