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Every Child Wales Programme
Good news! New Every Child Wales programme launched to help parents
Help parents do what exactly?
The Public Health Wales programme, Every Child Wales, aims to help parents give children the best possible start in life. The programme includes ten common sense steps to support parents to ensure their children are a healthy weight. One thing that contributes to a healthy weight is the right amount of physical activity and children who can walk on their own should be active for three hours every day.
Three hours?! Really? How can we manage that?
This can be spread across the whole day and Step 6 of the programme advises us to give our children chances to play outdoors every day. Children start their active lives through play. Active play is one of the easiest and most natural ways that children of any age can reach the necessary levels of physical activity. When given the opportunity to play children are likely to be physically active by running, jumping, dancing, climbing, digging, lifting, pushing and pulling.
Children’s play is determined by the opportunities parents and carers give them. Playing together is a great way to spend time as a family and help develop children’s confidence and communication skills. It can also help parents and other family members stay active too! If your child is in childcare or school, you can ask how often children play outdoors and advocate that all children, particularly younger ones, have the chance to play outdoors, often and everyday.
Active play, especially outdoors, helps our child develop physically, mentally and emotionally. It helps children develop strong bones and muscles, improves their skills and coordination, and makes them feel better about themselves. It can even help them sleep better (which is Step 9). And, when children are playing (especially outdoors), it is easier to limit the time they spend on screens and devices (that’s Step 7 by the way!).
Now that you mention screens, I think children are addicted to them and have no interest in playing outside.
According to the experts, given the choice children still prefer to play outdoors and value the independence and opportunities for discovery that it offers.
When children have a range of things to do and places to play, it is easier for parents to strike a balance and children are better able to self-manage their use of digital technology and devices. We can limit our own screen use, and model good and moderate online and device use, especially when children are nearby.
Okay fair points, but there aren’t any parks where my children can play in our neighbourhood.
Everyone’s neighbourhood is different, but wherever people live there’s sure to be a ‘playable’ space nearby. Where there are not designated play areas or parks, there are often other open spaces that can be used for playing. Children, particularly younger ones, often see play value in the simplest of things – puddles, worms, sticks and walking on walls.
Characteristics of good spaces for play include opportunities for wonder, excitement and the unexpected.
But what happens if my child gets hurt when we are playing out? I don’t want to be seen as irresponsible.
Parents and carers are subject to powerful and sometimes differing messages about keeping children safe. However, this should not result in a child not being allowed access to outdoor play. The benefits of playing outdoors greatly outweigh any risks. Try not to look for the smallest and most unlikely possibility of getting hurt in every activity. A long chain of ‘what ifs’ is unlikely to happen. Try to use a careful, but positive approach. We know our own children better than anyone else – observe their activity. Most children will not put themselves in real risk of serious harm. It is our job to help them learn to make decisions about risk and hazards for themselves and this starts when they are young. By doing this, we are better preparing them to make good and confident choices when the time comes for them to play out and about in their own community.
I think we can agree that playing is important and parents and carers need to support it.
Indeed, and to support children’s play it’s less about what you do and more about the way you do it. Children need permission, time, space and materials to get the most from playing. Hopefully, you’ll find our Playful parenting tips handy, useful and fun!