Let’s look at the concept of ‘play’ and its extended benefits during times like COVID-19, and tips for parents and the entire ecosystem around children to support healthy play.
Importance of ‘Play’
“In play, a child is always above his/her average age, above his/her daily behavior. As in the focus of a magnifying glass, play contains all developmental tendencies in a condensed form.” – Lev Vygotsky, a Soviet psychologist, known for his work on psychological development in children.
Play, both purposeless or purpose-led, holds immense importance for a child’s physical, social and psychological development cycle, through to adult life. And now, as we witness decline in children’s play globally owing to multiple lifestyle causes, there also has been a consequent increase in advocates for play and a recognition of children’s need for play. Thankfully so. The right to play, for children of all abilities, is well-protected within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Global pandemic and the unsolicited disruptions
COVID-19 is the latest hindrance in play for kids (and adults alike) with schools and playgrounds closed/restricted for an uncertain period. The coercion to resist outdoors even after several unlock phases has made children agitated and restless, thus making their parents stressed as well.
Additionally, children are forced to be on their screens for an increased amount of time for educational purposes, apart from other entertainment gains (a survey says 5 additional screen hours!). Digital gaming replaced physical games. This called for yet another emergency. The pandemic hard-pressed the need to classify Good Screen Time Vs Bad Screen Time. The WHO formulated new guidelines for young children to strike a balance of physical activity, non-screen sedentary time and adequate sleep.
Intensified need for active ‘Play’
‘Play’ for children, now, is even more important – as a response to the pandemic – to cope up with uncertainty, stress, and perhaps fear, with resilience. A great way for parents to support the health and happiness of their child during the current crisis is to find ways they can play at home. An hour or two of physical activity can work wonders for a child’s health as well as immune system as well – is a common realisation.
Home is the New Playground (till…)
Necessity is the mother of all inventions – now and always! Home had to be converted into a playground for kids, because Covid or no Covid, they are born to play. A few sports education platforms and schools addressed this need by creating online physical engagement platforms. ‘Phygital’ – the perfect amalgamation of physical activity through digital means – is the new norm for keeping kids active.
Online instructor-led fitness and skill-based programs aimed at striking a right balance between the physical and mental well-being of children have caught attention of many parents. 79% of parents expressed comfort in letting their child participate in home-based sports events. With the help of such programs, they could ensure that kids can continue to stay active and nurture their sports journey in the comfort of their own homes, thus making screen time much more productive for them.
Even brands and corporates that believe in the magic of sports to engage with their audiences are turning to ‘Phygital’ solutions to gradually reconnect with consumers, simultaneously making efforts to support an active lifestyle and to get back to some sense of normalcy.
Play is Health, Immunity and Happiness
The pandemic has placed a great deal of emphasis on health and the economy. Everything can wait, but health. And health, as we all know, is a function of immunity and happiness. ‘Play’ is the one-stop solution. It is high time to center child’s growth around play and committed physical education through their development stages. This will ensure a natural response action in uncertain times.
Going forward, play should be centred on being as opposed to becoming. Play does not always need to revolve around external goals. Kids should be encouraged and supported to play, just for the sake of playing. How can the eco-system around the kids ensure enough play – is a global challenge we need to take.
(Saumil Majmudar is Co-Founder, CEO and MD at Sportz Village. The views expressed are his own.)