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Away and Play: Fun, free and vital for development - Inspiring Scotland

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The latest articles and ideas from Inspiring Scotland and our partners.

11.09.2017

Away and Play: Fun, free and vital for development

We have lost something by scheduling ‘fun’ as part of our busy lives. 

Who remembers hopscotch?  Climbing into a cardboard box?  A stick that to you was a magic wand or a Light Sabre?  Who remembers just running through the woods or over the grass for no real reason at all?  I am sure most of us have these kinds of memories; they become almost clichés of childhood innocence but they are, of course, much, much more than that.

We all know how time-pressured our lives have become, for parents and for children.  Work for parents and for kids increased time at school and a schedule packed with hobbies and classes –  bikes, balls, judo, dancing.  These activities are all fun and worthwhile but we have also lost something by scheduling “fun” in the way we now often feel pressured to do.

That’s why we are working to change that. Through the #AwayandPlay campaign, launched with Scottish Government, we want to encourage children and their parents to have more unstructured, free play outdoors – even in Scotland this is possible all year round.

Research from around the world tells us that the kind of free play we are trying to encourage, den building, playing in puddles, banging sticks on rocks just to make a noise, is not only fun but vital for a child’s development. It helps to develop concentration, socialisation, imagination, resilience, health & wellbeing and confidence.

These qualities are sometimes considered less important to adult life.  But think about it: are these not the kind of skills we need for a prosperous and caring society in the future?  Creativity, resilience and imagination are some of the central qualities we see in innovators, pioneers and entrepreneurs the world over, whilst socialisation, confidence and concentration can improve educational performance as well as reduce aggression and unruly behaviour in children. And in adults.

Over the next nine months, we will be working with partners from the world of play, education, health, child care and natural heritage to show just how easy and safe it is for children to play outside freely, as they choose to, as well as providing examples of activities you can try and places you can go. Places which are fun for you and your children as well as free or with minimal cost.

Everyone can join in too – use the hashtag #Awayandplay on social media to tell people about your memories of playing outside or what you like to do with your children now you’re grown up.  Publish short videos so that everyone knows how easy free outdoor play is for kids and, most of all, how good it has been for your child’s development. Together, we can get Scotland playing.

This article was first published in the Herald on 28th August 2017

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