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New survey finds children in Wales want to play more but having no one to play with

With almost 70% of children saying playing makes them feel happy and excited, parents, carers and communities are called on to give children more opportunities to play

10-year-old Aneurin Yorke from Barry

Today (August 3rd 2022), thousands of children and their families will be out playing in communities and at local events across Wales celebrating Playday, an annual awareness day to emphasise the importance and value of play in youngsters’ lives.

New survey findings released to mark the day shows 62% of children said they would like to play more than five times a week, yet nearly one in three – with 35% of parents in agreement – said scrolling on TikTok and watching YouTube videos is stopping them from doing so.

But experts are keen to encourage and support parents and carers to inspire and motivate more chances for their children to play despite social barriers.

The survey was conducted on behalf of Playful Childhoods, a campaign from national charity Play Wales, aiming to help parents and carers give children the time, space and support to play at home and in their local communities.

The Playful Childhoods website includes guidance to support children of all ages to get what they need most out of play, with ideas and resources to increase understanding about children’s play and its importance for health and happiness.

Playing is one of the most prominent contributing factors to a child’s overall wellbeing with over 90% of parents across Wales saying playing has a positive impact on the mental health of their children, alongside 69% of children saying playing makes them feel happy or excited. Despite this, 22% of children said having no one to play with is another factor stopping them from playing altogether.

The survey also found 90% of children surveyed said they’re generally happy with the places they play, from playing outside in nature to playing on the street or on the pavement, to playing at a play centre like an afterschool club, or at a school playground, at a skatepark, or at home. But, 10% said they can’t do any of the things they’d like to do at these places.

Mike Greenaway, Director of Play Wales, said “Children have a limitless potential to be imaginative and to think creatively – it’s what they are doing when they are playing. It is obvious to us that we need to give children more opportunities to play everywhere, every day.

“Given the freedom to play, it will be the focus of every child’s life. The survey results serve as a reminder that children want to play more because it makes them happy. Although there are many places outside of the home for children to play, the findings also suggest that they need reassuring that play isn’t bound by fences or places, but can happen everywhere, every day, and within daily routines.

“It’s completely understandable that work and life commitments may leave many parents and carers unaware or too busy to know of the endless play opportunities possible at home and in local communities.

“Our biggest advice would be that supporting your child’s play is less about what you do, and more about how you do it. Children need time and space to get the most out of playing. We all sometimes need ideas on how playing can happen in the home and out in the community. The Playful Childhoods website has a range of ideas and guidance available for all adults looking to support and encourage children to play, to explore the world, both for the here and now and as they grow up into happy and healthy adults.”

Pictured: 13-year-old Summer Pritchard from Treherbert

Later in 2022, Play Wales will launch a 30-minute documentary film shot over the pandemic showing fly-on-the-wall footage of children at play across Wales, which will be shown in two selected cinemas.

In the film, children share how playing makes them feel, like 10-year-old Aneurin York from Barry who said “I really like playing because it [actually helps] me in life with stuff and [helps] me know how I’m feeling. It also shows people how to express their feelings without having to hide [them] from anyone.”

Talking about why she’d rather be playing, 13-year-old Summer Pritchard from Treherbert said “[Playing] makes me feel free. And if I didn’t have a playing to [turn to], I’d just be in my room watching TikTok on my phone.”