Thursday, October 21

From marble courts to homemade ball pools: how the confinement has changed the face of playing time | Building blocks for a better world

Making boats out of sticks and leaves from the garden to run in a local stream, create a family collage together, learn to ride a bike, and even recycle a jean jacket – fashion designer mom Chloe Haywood has had to get creative to stay his three children, aged ten, seven and four, entertained themselves during the confinement.

“At first I didn’t know what to do with them,” he says. “We were all exhausted with homeschooling and needed some fun activities for the afternoons. My oldest son really likes drawing, it just seems to relax him. The confinement for him was really beneficial because he was able to do more practical and creative things than he would normally do in school. “

Like the Haywood family, the game has assumed a more central role in the lives of many families over the past year. UK board game and puzzle sales soared 240% during the first week of closure as parents tried to keep their children busy. Overall toy sales increased by 5% in 2020 in the UK to reach £ 3.3 billion. In Swindon, Father Jon Richards, a freelance graphic designer, painted rainbows on windows with his daughters, made pompoms, had his toenails painted, and recreated soft games at home with sofa cushions, yoga mats, holes. ball and even a second-hand bouncy castle that he found on Facebook.

“My wife is a nurse, so she was working at all times,” he says. “At first, being home with a four- and two-year-old didn’t seem like a big deal, but after a couple of weeks we were constantly trying to come up with new ideas to keep things interesting. Fortunately, I’m still a big kid, so I love to use children as an excuse to make up games or do things. “

The importance of play in childhood cannot be underestimated. Helps children develop skills such as problem solving, socialization, curiosity, creativity, confidence, and the ability to learn from mistakes. There are also benefits for parents. LEGO Group Research which included nearly 13,000 parents from around the world found that 89% enjoy playtime as much as their child and 91% believe it is good for their own well-being.

High angle view of father and sons playing with toy kitchen in bedroom at home
Creative play is a great way for parents and children to connect with each other. Photograph: Maskot / Getty Images

What can be challenging for some parents is knowing how to play, says Roberta Sandri, experience design specialist at the LEGO Foundation. “One of our tasks is to demystify the game with children using only the materials that you have around you. Play can be a great coping mechanism, a way to connect and bond with your child. “

During the pandemic, Sandri and her colleague James Norwood focused much of their work on developing activities for parents that can be done at home. The Create with Anything project and LEGO Playlist they are a series of ideas that do not require more than paper, plastic bottles, cardboard and other discarded materials. The response so far has been very positive. In addition to resources available for download online in some countries, where it is being tested, 140,000 play kits have been distributed to vulnerable families in Colombia, including tips on learning through play, ideas for activities, challenges, and materials such as pair of scissors. , thick paper and pencils.

Playing jumping jacks with bottle caps, riding a marble in the living room, or participate in a fun counting game sound like simple ideas, but all activities consider the five characteristics of game. “At the LEGO Foundation, we believe that play experiences should be active, iterative, meaningful, joyful and socially interactive,” says Norwood. It is something that parents should not be intimidated by, they are already doing it. “When our children are babies, we make faces, we play hide and seek, we make silly sounds, this is all a game. And it’s a win-win experience, ”he says.

Birth to three is an extremely important stage when it comes to play and brain development in early childhood, Gemma Tumelty, playful parenting Initiative leader at the LEGO Foundation, he says. “In the early years, it’s about ‘serving and giving back.’ Babies are programmed to seek commitment and responses to their cues from their parents and caregivers; that’s how their brains develop and learn, so being receptive and interacting with them in a playful way really matters, ”she says.

A significant challenge when seeking to increase the prioritization of play among parents is the wide contextual variation in how play is understood and supported in the home and community around the world. Through its work, the LEGO Foundation says it knows that parents in Zambia understand play and their role in supporting and participating in play-based activities differently than parents in the UK. It’s important to understand these differences and tailor support to “engage with families and communities in ways that resonate and are meaningful to them,” says Tumelty.

To address that challenge, the LEGO Foundation is working with various partners in Zambia, Guatemala, Serbia, Rwanda and Bhutan to adapt, implement and scale programs designed to help parents recognize the value of participating in play with their children in support of . of their learning and development and to create stronger family ties. In these programs, parents are supported on how to recognize and respond to infant cues, how to make toys and instruments with household objects, how to create opportunities for play within the context of everyday life, and how to support children’s independent play. . .

Close up of boy in canvas shoes drawing with chalks on the sidewalk
The game can be simple: draw on a pavement with chalk or make instruments with household objects. Photograph: Halfpoint / Getty Images / iStockphoto

“These programs are absolutely necessary globally to improve parent-child relationships and promote healthy early development of children,” says Tumelty. “The impact on early cognitive language, motor skills, social and emotional development is huge. And giving parents the confidence to play with their children increases their coping skills, reduces stress, and improves their responsiveness to their children’s needs. “

Educational psychologist and play therapist Melanie Adkins says that many adults feel disconnected from play, but it is “the natural form of communication between adults and children. It’s what we do before words. ”Playing with dough, scribbling on a pavement with chalk, chatting together while coloring, or building clay kitchens in the garden are all great ways for parents and children to connect with each other, especially if they connect with each other. encourages children to take initiative. “That can be very enriching for them,” he says. “Play is a way for children to learn and take risks safely.”

Harnessing creativity through play also has benefits when it comes to mental health, for both adults and children. Research has found that play releases endorphins., which “counteracts stress hormones and helps when you feel anxious, angry or insecure,” Adkins says.

Richards is back in the office now, but he has definitely noticed a change in the way he plays with his daughters since the lockdown. “We have learned to enjoy home more and not just trust the park or soft play,” he says. “I was a bit devastated when the leave ended. We made so many good memories. “

Are you looking for fun and engaging learning through play activities for your children? Visit the LEGO Foundation Play list

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