The Benefits of Play

Making Denbighshire a Play Friendly Community

What is Play?

Play is a child led agenda. It is what they want to do and what they choose to do when given the freedom, independence, time and space to determine their own behaviour.

“Play encompasses children’s behaviour which is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. It is performed for no external goal or reward, and is a fundamental and integral part of healthy development -not only for individual children, but also for the society in which they live.” (WAG Play Policy 2002) 1

Freely chosen means that children themselves choose when, how and what to play. Play is not part of a set programme and does not have any steps that need to be completed.

Personally directed means children themselves control the content of their play and they decide the rules and roles they take when playing.

Intrinsically motivated means that play is undertaken for its own sake, and not performed for any reward, certificate or status. Play is the process that children are involved in rather than the end product.

Play transcends age, ability, ethnicity, social standing, religion and gender. It can take many different forms and it has many different characteristics. It is this scope and potential in play that makes it inclusive to all children and young people.

The Need to Play

“Play is the elemental learning process by which humankind has developed. Children exhibit a behavioural imperative and instinctive desire to play. It has contributed significantly to the evolutionary and developmental survival of our species. Children use play in the natural environment to learn of the world they inhabit with others. It is the very process of learning and growth, and as such all that is learnt through play is of benefit to the child.” (WAG Play Policy 2002) 1

Play is critical to all children and young people’s physical and emotional well-being and is central to a healthy child’s life. It impacts on the development of both their bodies and their brains. When given the opportunity to play children are more likely to be physically active by running, jumping, dancing, climbing, digging, lifting, pushing or pulling. Through play children experience a wide range of emotions including frustration, determination, achievement, disappointment, confidence and upset, and through practice, can learn how to manage these. By playing with their peers children also develop their social skills and build strong friendships, which lead to positive feelings of happiness and belonging.

Children deliberately seek out physical and emotional uncertainty in their play. From birth children are inquisitive and curious with a deeply rooted and compelling drive to explore the unknown and experiment with their surroundings. By taking risks and having adventurous play experiences children can challenge themselves, test the limitations of the environment around them, develop problem-solving skills and find creative approaches to new situations. Ultimately play influences a child’s ability to be adaptable and resilient, to cope with stressful events and therefore enables them to support their own well-being.

Play is the essence of childhood, and anything other than free access to the broadest range of opportunities for freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated play, will have a detrimental effect on the development of the child.

Within Denbighshire County Council, we value the children and young people within our communities and see them as equal citizens and we advocate to uphold their right to play whether we are involved in providing for play or by ensuring restrictions on play are avoided whenever possible. Due to the impacts of modern society we are committed to developing more high quality compensatory play spaces; however we also recognise that the freedom to play should not be constrained to these areas but should instead be promoted throughout the child’s community.

We recognise that play is a cross cutting theme and encourage all stakeholders, organisations and communities to understand the role they have in securing sufficient opportunities for playing within children’s communities as part of the statutory duty.[1]

[1] Welsh Government; Wales – A Play Friendly Country;

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