Experts are championing the importance of play in battling the child mental health crisis. Following a difficult couple of years, where children missed out on social activities during the Covid-19 pandemic, developmental psychologists from the University of Sussex say that play is the key to kids’ development.
Professor Robin Banerjee from the university said “As we continue to navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, much has been said about the need to help children catch up on ‘lost learning’ in relation to academic skills. But we also need to support children’s development in a much broader sense.
“Evidence shows children’s mental health has been affected by the global pandemic, and we must provide ample opportunities for children to build and maintain positive social relationships.
The call comes on national Playday, an annual day dedicated to play.
Playday happens on the first Wednesday of August in the UK and is a day to celebrate play. Across the country today communities and organisations of all sizes will come together to play together. They will explore the importance of play for physical and mental health, social skills and connections with communities.
“Play is crucial for the socio-emotional and socio-cognitive development of children and young people,” says Professor Banerjee.
An Ofsted research report published last week concluded the pandemic put “specific pressures on the children’s social care sector, and exacerbated existing challenges”.
During lockdown restrictions some children were less visible to professionals, which increased the risk that harm was not being identified, the report said.
It added that while children have returned to school and professionals have been able to see them again, some services are either not running again or are at a lower capacity than pre-pandemic levels.
The report added: “The mental health of some children and young people deteriorated during the pandemic, and we are seeing increasingly complex mental health needs among the children who require support.”
The importance of play
On Playday, experts are encouraging families to concentrate on having fun. Getting kids together for playdates is a great way to spend time during the school holidays and to help kids reconnect with peers. Whether it is a session at a soft play, digging around in the garden or playing dress up at home, it all helps. Children build connections with each other and Playday will help this happen across the country today.