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Let them play

By 15th April 2020October 20th, 2020No Comments

It’s OK to Play (Teenagers and Adult’s too!)

You’d be forgiven for feeling a certain amount of pressure at the moment. You may be having to navigate a whole new world trying to balance working from your living room, running a home school and meeting the needs and demands of your family. Which can understandably leave some of us with feelings of inadequacy (OR is that just me?) Ahhh!

So, by suggesting you might want to introduce more play into your day, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first thing that went through your mind was. SERIOUSLY, where on earth do you think I would have time to do that in my already busy, unforgiving schedule

I would imagine that letting your children play even for some of the day would seem like cheating or somehow failing? Well I’m here to tell you it’s not. What if I told you that’s exactly what they need to be doing right now? And you know What? You could probably use some playtime yourself! Not only is play the most effective learning tool for children and young people it is also the way in which they make sense of the world around them and there’s an awful lot to make sense of right now.

What we know about play is that it allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination and physical, emotional and mental strength. Playing enables children to engage with and explore their environment helping them to develop skills that help promote growth in confidence and resilience

In fact, Play is really important in supporting healthy brain development, and the best bit…It offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children.


Play creates a brain that has increased flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life – Lester & Russell, 2008 and has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.


Some benefits of play:

  • Relieves stress
  • Improves brain function
  • Stimulates the mind and boost creativity
  • Improves relationships and connection with others
  • Keeps you feeling young and energetic. (this one’s specific to the adults!)
  • Play helps develop and improve social skills
  • Play teaches cooperation with others
  • Play promotes feelings of emotional wellness


In my house we have engaged in lots of play using a barbie ambulance, Barbie in the role of Dr and an interesting variety of “poorly characters” reminiscent of Toy Story. In these play scenarios Dr Barbie is taking much care to clean her equipment and wash her hands in case of germs before attending to her patients.

What is clear is that the small amount we’ve explained to our 4-year-old about the coronavirus is being processed in her rapidly developing brain and the way she is processing and making sense of this is through play.

I have to confess, I’m rubbish at imaginative play. There I said it. I watch my daughter and her dad access countless worlds and realms of imagination in wonderment of their shared adventures. We have a lot to learn from children and letting my four-year-old lead me through unstructured play has been a joy. and more often or not my daughter and I end up crawling around the floor with her on my back, wrestling or having tickle fights. And guess what, that’s OK too because there is another type of play called attachment play and this type if play is AMZING for helping children and young people work through their unexpressed feelings and feel connection to people they trust. In short, it’s amazing for their mental health. (And yours!)


Playing feels fun, liberating and joyful, AND many of the games that we play with our children have effects far beyond connecting and having fun – Marion Rose PHD


Here are some examples of attachment play for older children and teenagers

  • Pillow fights, wrestling or any other type of play fighting
  • Decorating each other’s faces with feathers, pipe cleaners or whatever you have at home
  • Painting each other’s nails or doing each other’s makeup
  • Ball games where you are face to face like catch. It can be fun to try and catch the ball in something like a hat
  • Colouring, drawing, Painting, crafting or creating with play dough or clay
  • Throwing clay, playdough or even a pillow to the ground as hard as you can (great for expressing anger)
  • Playing with sand
  • Hide and seek!
  • Chase or tag


Some of these things can be scheduled into your day if you’ve managed to make a schedule (and if not don’t worry, you won’t be the only one!). However, the great thing about attachment play is that it can be quick and spontaneous and can be done anywhere! Plus, not all attachment play needs reems of resources and some needs none at all.

If your child is anything like mine they’ll let you know loud and clear when they need some attention and that’s the time when a little bit of attachment play can go a long way!

Attachment play is not about being highly organised, highly skilled or extremely imaginative, it’s just about being together in a playful way.  It’s the kind of play that fuels connection and makes us all feel a little safer, something we all need right now! There are probably hundreds of ways you already play in this way with your child and never knew it had a name or a purpose other than that it feels wonderful for you both!

So let’s all get more play into our day and feel safe in the knowledge that this is exactly what our children need and for that matter, what we need too!

And if you’re feeling particularly ambitious check out these links to amazing Dens you can build inside and outside:

Family Corner

Action for Children


–  Blog written by Terrie & Ness

Emotional Resilience for Parents & Carers

Cornwall Council Advice Page


Headstart Kernow SPACE

(Supporting Parents and Children Emotionally)

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