By Cath Prisk   from  Children and Young People Now

| 04 August 2015

What is play to you? What is it really?

Play is what children do when adults stop telling them what to do. That’s one of my favourite explanations. And so our job as “children’s professionals” is often to both stop ourselves from telling them to do anything and to remove the barriers – physical, cultural, social – that get in their way.

But is that all play is?

Maria Montessori says “Play is the work of children”. Someone else said that play is not the opposite of work, it’s the opposite of depression. Play has lots of benefits, but it has no overarching purpose. The goals may change from moment to moment, but for the player there is always a good reason… even if it is simply to have fun! Actually having fun could be the most important purpose, the highest goal.

Play isn’t always nice. It isn’t always active. It isn’t always joyful. But it is usually satisfying. And it reportedly fires off more neurons in kids than almost any other activity.

But what the heck IS play?

Wednesday, 5 August is the UK-wide National Playday. It’s a day that was started over 27 years ago in Hackney to simply celebrate children’s right to play, and to highlight local places for play. Over the years Playday has had different focuses itself: risk, spaces for play, the people that make play possible and one memorable year when community was the focus, highlighting that far too often it is neighbours and what they might say that stops play.

This year the theme simply invites you in, to answer the question implied in: “Play is…”

This Playday the four national play organisations (Play England, Play Scotland, Playboard Northern Ireland and Play Wales) and the “Free Time Consortium” are teaming up with The Wild Network to run screenings of the film Project Wild Thing in unusual locations across the country… The film and a debate afterwards will kickstart discussions locally both about what play is and how people can break down local barriers.

Getting involved is easy, and there are no time limits – Playday may be the national celebration of children’s play, but the whole point is EVERY day is a playday!

Anyway this Playday I’ll be going along to the Kids Adventure Playground by the Marshes in Hackney that is one of the wild places holding a FREE screening of Project Wild Thing with a campfire, marshmallows and lots of space to play… Details are in Time Out:http://www.playday.org.uk/playday-events/events-near-you/london.aspx

Whatever Play is…. Celebrate it!

Cath Prisk runs her own social enterprise Outdoor People, and is a trustee for The Wild Network. She was formerly director of Play England

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