Happy Playday (let's make it last all year)

Why a day spent playing is a wonderful thing


As the summer holidays roll on, thoughts of returning to school may be on the periphery of many minds; new uniforms, a change to routine, perhaps even a change of school entirely. One substantial change we know all schools will be facing this autumn is the New Ofsted Inspection Framework, which will be implemented from September 2019. Among its key themes is 'an emphasis on good character and resilience among pupils'. But what does this really mean for children and young people?

Arguably, good character and resilience could be facilitated by any of the following:

  • increased self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • good physical and mental health
  • increased confidence through developing new skills
  • promotion of imagination, independence and creativity
  • opportunities to connect with others of all abilities and backgrounds
  • opportunities for developing social skills and learning
  • opportunities for risk taking and challenge, problem solving, and dealing with new and novel situations
  • opportunities to learn about the environment and wider community

And what single activity can help children and young people experience all of the above? Play. This list, complied by Play England, summarises everything that research is telling us about the benefits of play. As Play Englans sums it up, “Play can help build resilience – the capacity for children to thrive despite adversity and stress in their lives.”

I once spent a few months working in Croatia for an NGO (non-governmental organisation), founded during the war to provide refugees access to creative and cultural activities. The Director told me the story of how it all began; someone had been observing the children in the refugee camps, who had gathered up the drab, grey, standard-issue blankets meant for the practical purpose of keeping them warm, and were instead outside playing the most fantastic game with them. They realised at that moment that whilst provision for their practical needs were being meant during this crisis, this alone was not enough. What it also demonstrates most beautifully is that play is such an innate quality in human beings that very little seems to suppress it, even the unimaginable experiences of being displaced in a war-torn county.

It’s probably not surprising that I now work for a charity devoted increasing access to art and culture in young lives. Because, whilst we have the evidence of its benefits, whilst we have its importance enshrined as a fundamental human right through Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, we also know that access to creative opportunities is limited, even non-existent, for many children and young people. Today, organisations and groups throughout the country are taking part in Playday by hosting fabulous opportunities for their communities to come together and enjoy the delights and freedoms of a day devoted to play. It’s fantastic and wonderful and rightfully growing as a national initiative. But as our mission statement at TMC states, “We believe that every day, for every child and young person, should be an inspiring and creative adventure".

That’s why in October, we’ll be celebrating our very own day of creativity and fun through our annual Creative Hero Day. Last year, arts and cultural organisations, schools and individuals came together to laugh, play and recognise their own creative heroes, all to raise money to help increase access to arts and culture for all children and young people. On 10th October 2019 we’d like you to join us, by signing up to be part of the campaign and hosting your own event.

As a charity, we know access to funding for the arts can be fiercely competitive, which is why we’re not asking to compete with your own priorities. Instead, we encourage anyone involved to keep up to 50% of the money they raise to invest in their own arts and cultural activities for the children and young people they work with. The remaining funding, donated back to TMC, is then invested to ensure the most vulnerable children and young people gain access to rich arts and cultural provision in their area. Further details can be found here, or you can sign up below.

Be a hero and take part in Creative Hero Day 2019

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And for all those taking part in National Playday today, we wish you the greatest fun, joy and laughter, confident in the knowledge that a day spent in the pursuit of play is a day well spent indeed.