Therese Hoyle: The Power of Play
All the warm weather recently has got us and our children keen to be outdoors, playing in the sunshine. But how can we help our children to get the most from playtime and feel confident that that ‘freestyle’ time is supporting their physical and mental development? Bestselling Author and Education expert Therese Hoyle is sharing with us the science behind play. You can read more of her advice and get ideas for new games to keep your kids active and happy in her new book 101 Playground Games.
Over to Therese...
Play, it’s one of those words that we all immediately connect with children, and one that conjures up our own happy memories as well as those we make with our own children. Play is powerful; it’s not only beneficial to children’s well being, but also ESSENTIAL to every child’s life and is vital for their social, emotional, intellectual and physical development, in fact, play supports children in every area of their development. Over the last few turbulent years, play has often been a neglected and under valued part of our children’s lives, with playgrounds closed and access to play equipment restricted. Save The Children reported that 92% of children felt that the way they play had changed since the COVID 19 pandemic, this includes 51% saying they play outside with their friends less, with 34% playing alone more regularly. 23% stated that they are playing less sport than they were before. Stuart Brown comments in his book ‘Play,’ that we have a play deficit, very much like the well documented sleep deficit.
Play is something that as parents and educators we need to feel empowered, to support our children with, whether that’s playing alongside them, or giving them the opportunities and resources to play by themselves. Over my time of working with schools, I have discovered that children just want to have fun and are eager to play and learn new games. Once I start a game, I almost always have the whole school joining in. We know from research that when children have a happy playtime, they learn better in the afternoon. An added bonus I continue to hear from schools is how much happier their lunchtime supervisors, teaching assistants and teachers are, walking calmly into the staff room after play commenting on their happy playtime, so it’s not just the children who benefit – we all do! And that includes PARENTS! That's what inspired me to write my latest book, 101 Playground Games 2nd Edition because wellbeing is important for us all.
So, what types of play are there?
Big Body Play.… Rough and tumble or big body play like running, climbing, jumping and even wrestling is necessary for proper brain development in children and beneficial for building relationships and developing healthier bodies.
Object play, such as playing with toys, banging pots and pans, handling physical things in ways that use curiosity. Throwing and catching a ball really develops hand and eye coordination.
Social play, play which involves others in activities such as tumbling, making faces, and building connections with another child or group of children.
Why should we get our children outside?
● Children who play outside develop better language skills, are fitter and have fewer behavioural problems.
● They use five times as many words when they play outside compared to indoors.
● There is a direct correlation between obesity and lack of time spent outdoors.
● The freedom of playing outdoors improves children’s physical and sensory development and their imaginations.
● It gives them permission to fall and to fail and builds their resilience.
What sorts of things can we do to encourage play?
Praise their play- Chances are that your child already engages in some amount of free play every day. Encourage more of it by regularly telling your child what a great job they’re doing.
Offer open-ended toys- Have you ever bought your child a toy, only to find them obsessed with playing with the cardboard box packaging? Using the simple things around you e.g. boxes, saucepans, blankets, pegs etc are one of the best ways to encourage your child to use their imagination, and you can play along with ‘pretending’ too.
Lead by example - Sometimes we just have to show our children how to actually play, it might be introducing a new game, or showing them how to use a new toy. Or even showing them how to be respectful of an environment.
What games can we play?
Here are 3 games from 101 Playground Games and 101 Wet Playtime Games and Activities that you can play with no equipment!
The Bean Game
How to Play
One person is chosen to be the leader.
The leader explains the different categories of beans and demonstrates the actions for each.
French bean – the players say, ‘Bonjour’, and bow down.
Jelly bean – the players wobble like jelly.
Baked bean – the players lie down on the floor in a stretched-out position.
Broad bean – the players make a standing starfish shape. Kidney bean – the players lie curled up on the floor.
Chilli bean – the players shiver.
Frozen bean – the players freeze (stay still).
The leader calls a bean and all the players have to do the actions of that bean.
The Finger and Palm Game
How to play
Players form pairs and stand facing one another. Both players hold the palm of their hand flat behind their back whilst with their other hand they use their index finger to point. Each person attempts to poke their index finger into the palm of their partner’s hand, which is of course behind their back and so makes it very difficult. The aim is to touch their partner’s palm and their partner’s goal is to make sure that they don’t! Since both players are trying to avoid being poked by their partner there is lots of action with them needing to dip, dodge and move away from their partner.
There are no winners and no losers in this game. It is just great fun and quite exhausting.
Who’s under the blanket?
How to play
It is great for learning to take turns, learning each other’s name, for the child to learn his whole name and to not be afraid when hiding alone. However, if the child is too afraid to hide underneath the blanket, you can change it to, ‘Who’s that hiding behind the blanket?’
The children sit around in a circle with their eyes closed whilst the play leader selects a child to sit in the middle of the circle. The play leader covers him over with the blanket. This player doesn’t need to close their eyes. Everyone sings (to the tune of One little, Two little, Three little Indians): Who’s that hiding underneath the blanket? Who’s that hiding underneath the blanket? Who’s that hiding underneath the blanket? Let us guess your name!
Players then take it in turns guessing who is under the blanket and the person under the blanket replies in a disguised voice with either yes or no. The player who guesses correctly replaces the person under the blanket and the game starts again.
I hope you can bring play and laughter to your children and have a summer of play.
Therese Hoyle has over 25 years’ teaching experience in mainstream, special and higher education. She is the founder and Head Facilitator of Therese Hoyle Consultancies. Since 1996 Therese has worked nationally and internationally with over 495 schools and organisations and with more than 15,400 individuals inspiring them with Positive Playtime, Circle Time, Coaching Circles, Positive Parenting, Positive Behaviour Management, Emotional Literacy and Leadership Coaching programmes. 101 Playground Games is out now, and can be purchased from all good booksellers and on Amazon. To find out more about Therese’s work with children and schools, visit her website.