Science

Why it’s time for kids to be kids

New research reveals that children are indulging less and less in play time and it could have a disastrous effect on their development. That’s why it is time for change. Friday, 9 February

By Kieren Puffett

A coalition of partners has launched a new campaign to encourage kids to get back to enjoying real playing. This new initiative comes on the back of research, which has revealed that all over the world, children are spending less and less time playing in favour of traditional academic learning, which is starting earlier and earlier.

Academics are also pointing to the fact it’s not just the lack of play that’s the problem – it’s how children’s play time has changed. Recent analysis points to the fact that most of today’s youngsters spend less time outdoors per day than maximum security prisoners, while 61% of children say they don’t know how to play without using technology.

Crucial for learning

Traditional children's play time has been shown to be critical for their development and learning.  It’s not hard to see why play is the most natural and fun way for kids to acquire and hone key life skills like communication, teamwork, emotional intelligence, problem-solving and, of course, creativity.

It’s this that has prompted four organisations to combine to form the Real Play Coalition to inspire families, educators and policymakers to protect and prioritise play. 

More play opportunities

The Real Play Coalition is made up of Unilever, LEGO Foundation, and Ikea Group with National Geographic Partners (NGP) acting as the Coalition’s media partner, and has come together to promote real play for children. This includes promoting a set of actions that focus on increasing more play opportunities within schools and cities, as well as a multi-city examination of the socio-economic impact of play – or lack thereof.

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, said: “Many of the challenges the world faces require us to change how we operate – from business to governments to our day-to-day lives. Many of these new approaches have not been identified. To develop them we need to ensure that future generations remain creative thinkers and are able to work across borders and across cultures to ensure a brighter future for all. Real Play, that encourages children to engage with and grow from the world that surrounds them, is key to this.”

Gary E. Knell, chairman of NGP, also echoed the vital importance play provides for children. "When children discover the magic of the natural world, they understand how important it is to care for it. Getting out and playing outside is a great way to start building the next generation of stewards of our planet,” said Knell. “As the Real Play Coalition’s media partner, we want to amplify the importance of play — and, particularly, play outside — across our global media platforms.”

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