The Importance of Play During Lockdown

“I sometimes compare play to oxygen – it is all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing”

This quote, from Dr Stuart Brown the founder of the National Institute of Play in America, I believe highlights the need for play.

My name is Ben; I am a Team Leader at Play Gloucestershire, a registered charity that delivers active and creative outdoor play in urban and rural communities, whatever the weather, all year round. Activities are both school and community based.

Play is our thing! We have witnessed first-hand the power of play, to educate, to motivate, the power to transform lives. 

Maria Montessori said “Play is the work of the child”, and like adults all over the country; children are being asked to work from home. 

Play is how children learn to make their own decisions, control their emotions and impulses. It’s how they learn to negotiate, see things from others points of view and make friends. 

Play takes place in a realm where the player has little or no concept of time, it allows an escape from the seriousness of the world. Play is freedom, freedom to express yourself, to try new things, to play out the world around you – we have witnessed games of Corona Tag take place in playgrounds, this is a child at work, making sense of the world that they now inhabit. 

As our lives have gone 2D, with social interactions taking place via a flat screen, reconnecting with nature is so important. The great outdoors can offer therapeutic benefits to those that are struggling with the ups and downs of lockdown life. Even if you don’t have access to large open spaces playing outdoors is good for you, wherever you can do it. 

Head outside for a silly walk together, let your inhibitions go. Can you Moonwalk? Can you walk like a gorilla beating your chest as you go? 

What about splashing in puddles, show the kids you are still young at heart! Lockdown restrictions mean it is harder to access wet weather gear if you can’t get to the shops, and let’s not forget the children are still growing during this period, they may not fit in what they have anyway. During wet play sessions we have wrapped trainers in plastic bags, and cut holes in bin liners to make ponchos. It’s not high fashion, but it is cheap and practical. 

As you venture out why not offer to collect any natural item that catch the eye of those young people in your care. It could be a feather, a colourful leaf or a smooth stone. If you collect these items in a shallow tray (think a take-away dish or food packaging) when you get home add a loop of string/wool hanging out one side, then fill the tray with some water. If it’s cold enough leaving this collection outside overnight should freeze and create an ice sculpture ready to hang from your nearest tree or windowsill – you can do this at any time of the year if you have access to a freezer.

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If you are struggling to get outside, there are plenty of outdoor play activities that can be adapted. A balloon covered by a plastic bag becomes ever so slightly heavier so can act as a good volleyball or a football for keepy ups. If you have a couple of spare frying pans or books, then you could have a game of tennis. Please be aware of your surroundings though, I don’t want to get the blame for anything getting broken. 

We LOVE to play Blindfold Portraits, a game to play as a family or just in pairs. You need something to cover your eyes; a bobble hat or a hoody worn backwards to cover your eyes that way. You will need some paper and something to draw with). Sit opposite your partner then cover your eyes and draw the person in front of you without peeking. The results are often hilarious! 

Play is about the process not the product/final outcome, so GET OUT AND PLAY however you can and have fun.

Ben Morris, Gloucester

www.playgloucestershire.org.uk

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