National Children’s Day UK (NCDUK) is all about the importance of a healthy childhood and how we need to protect the rights and freedoms of children in order to ensure that they can grow into happy, healthy adults. Children’s Day was originally established in 1954 by the UN General Assembly, and was intended as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children. NCDUK was launched by the Save Childhood Movement in 2013, and since then they have run yearly campaigns each with a different theme.
NCDUK’s 2015 campaign focused on the ‘Science and Magic of Play’, highlighting the benefits of play and outlining some factors that have reduced children’s ability to play such as hurried lifestyles, a more risk-averse society and an increased focus on academic attainment. This year’s theme is particularly highlighting just how important the wellbeing of adults is to this process.
How is play optimal to child development?
- It helps to develop children’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical development
- It inspires children’s natural creativity
- It provides the opportunity to do things without needing to focus on specific, pre-determined outcomes
- Whilst playing, children can experience real emotions, create their own uncertainty, experience the unexpected and respond to a wide variety of situations
- Playing outdoors allows children to explore their environment and develop gross motor skills
- Play enables children to form friendships and attachment to adults and to places
- It provides opportunities for independent learning and building confidence, resilience, self-esteem and self-efficacy
- It can strengthen parent-child relationships
- Independent play allows children to explore the world on their own terms and create their own identities
We have asked some of our parent bloggers about the importance of play in their households:
“With young children in the house, I always want to ensure we fit in enough time for play in the day, and although I think it’s fantastic for the children to be independent and play on their own at times, I also see how much they enjoy it when we as parents give them our full attention and join in their creative play, pretending to be customers at the pretend restaurant or pupils in the pretend school. I also love playing games with my three-year-old now, as I think there are many educational games that offer an excellent opportunity for encouraging learning through play.” Tine – Mummy in the City
“Children can be so creative and I think it’s essential that this is nurtured from an early age. I love watching mine expressing themselves through play; they really enjoy making up stories with weird and wonderful characters, constructing impossible vehicles and buildings and interacting with each other.” Tom – Diary of the Dad
Here are some ideas to help you celebrate play this Children’s Day!
Making and Building
Make dressing-up clothes out of different materials. How about creating a shirt out of a paper carrier bag, or out of leaves? Use old shirts and other adult clothing to make royal garments; you could glue or sew them together to fit their new owner. Add jewels to make them beautiful, or how about creating a whole set of aliens’ outfits? Vikings, race-drivers, astronauts, princesses, doctors, or whatever else you’ve always wanted to be.
Give children an assortment of materials such as cardboard boxes of various sizes, duct tape, lengths of fabric, planks of wood, branches, rope… Stand back and watch as the children build their very own village house by house. You could add roads, zebra crossings, parks, benches, and whatever else you can think of!
Use the same materials as for the Pop-Up village to construct a giant obstacle course across the playground, a hall or any room.
Combine creativity with construction, with a building challenge! Sets such as Gears! Gears! Gears! or Design and Drill are great ways to encourage problem solving skills whilst experimenting with colours and shapes. Try creating a smiley face with bolts or creating a gears masterpiece that will spin with the turn of a handle.
Using the costumes you made to become someone you always wanted to be, put on a show! Make up a story and perform it to friends and family. Create your own actions and words to tell the story. Alternatively, use a well known story and re-enact it.
Children love to take part in imaginative play with real-life themes. Provide props for scenarios where they can draw upon their own experiences such as a doctors set or kitchen utensils. This type of play will help them to understand their likes and dislikes and role-play scenarios that may seem frightening in real-life such as beginning school or visiting the doctors.
Clowns do more than make people laugh, they can help kids learn to deal with something new they might not have encountered before. If you were a clown, what would your outfit look like? Put on a clown nose and make people laugh. Try to tell a story without using any words, it’s called mime, clowns do it all the time! Can you make a face to express different emotions? What does happy, sad, mad, glad look like? Prepare a clown show for others to watch.
Provide the children with a large box of random objects (reclaimed, recycled and natural materials) and see what they do with them. This idea comes from a project called World of Stuff, based in north Somerset.
Make a treasure hunt – this could be done in two teams with both teams making secret maps and hiding treasure for the other team to find.
Make paper airplanes in different styles and in different sizes. Set up a start line and see whose airplane flies fastest. Then try flying them from a different place – outside, inside, out of a window, aiming for a specific spot to land them. You can also try flying them in different conditions, does it fly further when it is windy?
Hop, skip and jump! Use chalk to draw shapes on the ground. Play hopscotch or make up your own rules. Play tick-Tac-Toe. Play skipping rope. Have a French Skipping session outside or inside.
Circle time helps to develop speaking and listening skills as well as group co-operation. Try a circle time activity from All Around Learning™ to combine learning colours, shapes and numbers with play!
Movement and Music
Nothing gets imaginations flowing like the sound of drums! Everyone’s got a rhythm inside them just waiting to come out! Anything can be a drum. Turn over a plastic bucket and start to tap a rhythm. Then play the drums to familiar songs everyone knows. Invent new kinds of instruments to go with your drums and ask people to guess which song you are playing.
Dance to the drums of your drumming circle or turn up your jukebox. Invent new kinds of dancing. Make up a dance that mimics your favourite animal with the Wild About Animals Ready, Set, Roar! Classroom Activity Set. Use just your head, then your legs only, next a dance with your arms only. Then move every part of you! How about moving on to Mirror Dancing; get a partner and take turns following everything your partner does. You could also try an old favourite: when you are dancing, make a circle and let everyone take turns dancing in the middle.
To find out more about National Children’s Day UK and how you can get involved, visit their website: http://www.nationalchildrensdayuk.com/
“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”
– O. Fred Donaldson