Wales to Be the First Country to Legislate Policy on Play - Why Play is Important for Children

By Helen Holmes on April 11, 2012

The Welsh government is making history this year as they begin drafting a legislation to expand play opportunities for children. Once this law has been passed, Wales will become the first country in the world to legislate for play.

Wales to Legislate Policy on Play

On a 12-week consultation, representatives from various local authorities as well as the young and adult community in Wales will draft the regulations and statutory guidance for play and set out the criteria of evaluating play facilities in the country. The assessment will then be used as basis for drafting the said legislation. By next year (2013), the Welsh government hopes to have the law in force.

According to Gwenda Thomas, the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services, play is vital for children’s development. Before, kids are seen playing outdoors and anywhere they want. But modern life has changed this. Thomas added that it is very much important that the government ensures the availability of safe and secured places where children can play.

Mike Greenway, Director of a national children’s charity called Play Wales, said – We need to create an environment where children’s presence playing outside in our communities is welcomed and celebrated.

How Does Play Improve Wellbeing of Children?

Play is a biological instinct – a natural way of discovering things and exploring knowledge. Children play because they find it enjoyable. It gives them a lot of opportunities to develop their skills and talents. They smile and laugh when they play. They feel sad when they don’t. Aside from brightening up their mood, play benefits children in so many ways.

Play widens their imagination – Imagination is a powerful human ability. It allows us to simulate situations without abandoning reality.  At the age of two, people learn how to imagine and as they grow old, it becomes easier for them to distinguish reality from pure imagination.

Play improves brain function and promotes intelligence – There are increasing evidences that link play with the development of cognitive and social skills. On an animal study, it was revealed that rats that socialise with other rats develop more complex and bigger brain structure.

Rough plays teach children how to act fairly and socialise – research shows that roughhousing helps instill desirable values to children. On an animal study, Marina Davila Ross from University of Portsmouth observed how gorillas play. In a team of gorilla, one would hit a playmate and run away (like the game of tag in humans). Then the gorilla which was struck will chase them. But sometimes, they wouldn’t hit back. According to the researchers, such play develops fairness, selflessness, and social awareness.

Play helps children change their perspective – when children are faced with highly negative experience (like a visit to the dentist), they find retreat and comfort whenever they play out a ‘dentist’ which in turn allows them to understand such experiences and control their emotions.

Play improves physical health – when they run, climb a ladder, pull a rope, do some balancing in a narrow beam, or jump in an obstacle race, children develop stronger muscles and immunity to various illnesses.

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