Children Need to Play More

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Expert's Top Ten Tips for More Play
Children Need to Play More, Study Reveals

A study has revealed that 96 per cent of consumers thought society would be better off if children of all ages were encouraged to play more.
The survey, which questioned more than 2,800 consumers, found that almost all respondents believed that having time to play was a fundamental part of childhood. Ninety nine per cent of people questioned in the survey, which was carried out by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA), believed this to be true.
And Toy expert, Julie Rae of www.toys-to-you.co.uk agrees wholeheartedly with this sentiment and she claims that parents do not need to buy toys to fulfil it.
"It is very important that children are encouraged to play," she said. "And parents don't need to spend a fortune on toys to foster a wonderful play environment for their children from babies right up."
Ms Rae, managing director of the online company which only sells toys that encourage creative play, education and development for pre-school children, said that playing should come from a child's imagination not just from toys.
"Children have the most fantastic imaginations. Parents can encourage these fantastic imaginations in the cheapest ways", Ms Rae said.
"It's that old saying if you give a child a toy in a box they'll always want to play with the box. They'll turn the box into a ship, a car, a dolls house. The imagination of children knows no bounds. Parents just need to bring it out and nourish it, allow them to let their imaginations run free."

Here are Ms Rae's TOP TEN TIPS FOR PLAY that don't cost parents a fortune:

1. Set time away from the TV or video games to play outside in a safe environment. You can either watch from a window, sitting in the garden or join in. If it's warm you can never go wrong with water pistols especially if you join in!
2. Turn household chores into "fun learning play" for pre-schoolers. Got to clean the bath? Then take your shoes off, roll up your trousers and climb into the bath to clean it, encourage your child to come in with you to help. That's fun with a capital F for little one's
3. Widen your child's world knowledge and spur their imagination with books. When they are just too raucous sit down with them even just for 15 minutes and read a really good book. They'll calm down and might go play the story they've just heard. If the children are pre-school age or older encourage them to put on a play of the book you've just read.
4. Believe it or not you are your children's entertainment manager so be prepared to organise play activities such as sponge painting, snap, colouring in and painting or any other activity they enjoy. Or give them an empty box with paints or crayons let them turn it into whatever they want before playing in it.
Your house may get a bit messy but the kids will be grown up too soon, your house will always be there.
5. Get a box fill it up with your old clothes, jewellery, hats and shoes - voila you have a dressing up box to fuel little one's imagination.
6. Babies need to play too. Buy them age appropriate toys that encourage exploration, learning and play. Or when they are sitting up stage give them some saucepans and a wooden spoon to bang on. Just make sure you supervise you don't want any pots stuck on baby heads!
7. Toddlers want to run and explore their surroundings. On sunny days take them to the park or play in the garden. Let them run free while you keep an eye on them. Raining? Clear a floor space and let them zoom either with a building block cart or a push/pull along toy.
8. Kitchen cupboards are fascinating for children. Choose a cupboard full of safe things such as your tupperware cupboard and give them a free rein to investigate. Tidying up can be made into a game too.
9. When you do buy toys for your children's playtime make sure they are solid and sturdy and not going to break the first time out of the box. Also avoid buying "timed" toys that will go out fashion within a few months. Might save some tears in the long run. And you'll have toys to hand down family generations, saving money in the long term.
10. Toys should encourage creative play and exploration no matter the age of the child.
Buying for babies look for bright, colourful toys with textures, smells and noises.
For toddlers, look for stacking or building toys, push and pull toys or posting toys preferably wooden as they last longer.
Pre-schoolers love dress up (yes even the boys), dolls houses, castles, arts and crafts, trains, prams.
While for 5+ you are best to look for science sets, gardening kits, arts and crafts, musical instruments, trains, dolls houses.

Ms Rae added: "Remember children don't always need expensive toys."
"More often they just need your time and energy," she added. "Or some free space to let off steam or their imaginations nourished and encouraged to flourish.
In response to the survey Chairman of the BTHA, Clive Jones, said: "For a long time we have realised how vital the value of play is to children and adults. It is great to see that so many individuals are recognising the significance of play and all the benefits that it can provide for the person, whether it be a child or an adult."
While Helen Goodman, CEO of Play Matters, the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries, added: "Opportunities and time for play are intrinsic to a good childhood. Children naturally want to learn and playing - experimenting and exploring - is the way they do it. The right toy at the right time really can make a difference."

March 2006

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