Play Events and PLAY DAY!

The Cause

Play has been shown to have immense benefits for children and adults alike. Yet the best kinds of play—unstructured, creative, exploratory—do not always come naturally to parents and are not always available to children. We propose to host a series of events open to all families that will help parents and children to embrace this type of play:
• Fall 2015 – for National Children’s Day
• Winter 2016 – Winter Play
• Spring 2016 – Mud Play, and
• August 2016 – A big Play Day capping event.
We would provide a space and materials and encourage participants to experiment and try new activities. The August 2016 Play Day event will be planned for a public street in Edmonton both to encourage engagement and call attention to the importance of play for health and development.
NorQuest College is well suited to providing this community opportunity. Not only are we centrally located with a large population of parents among our students (47% in 2010), the College has in-house early-learning expertise through its Early Learning and Childcare Diploma (in development) and Day Home Provider programs to help plan and guide the events. In addition to paying for permits, moving costs, and advertising costs, the funds would be used to acquire loose parts and materials for play activity and a play pod (container) that will double as material storage and make the program easy to transport to event sites. Supported by the 2017 opening of the NorQuest College Child Care Centre, we anticipate that play days will become a long-term annual recurring community event.

Who Will it Benefit?

Play is essential to learning and healthy brain development. Moreover, it is during self-initiated play that children and adolescents can explore their own interests and identities. Play is so important for children that it has been written as Article 31 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and has been set out in detail in the Charter for Children’s Play. These documents outline that children should have the time and space to play, but note that children sometimes need additional support or trained adults to enjoy their play. These events will provide much-needed play time as well as an opportunity for parents to see how they can support their children in these important activities.
With today’s emphasis on structured time—meals, school, sports, clubs, work, etc.—simple play, and the importance of unstructured play, can get lost in the day-to-day. There is a sense that as children grow, play should take fewer hours in the week to make room for productive activities. These events will provide an opportunity for parents to see how they might foster unstructured play time at home and in their communities. They will see first-hand some the benefits of unstructured time for their children.
Additionally, parents will receive information about the importance of play and have the opportunity to ask questions of qualified staff, NorQuest Early Learning and Childcare students, and trained volunteer community members. Parents will receive information about risk management in play and learn to cultivate trust in their child’s ability to play. They will be provided with a variety of examples of healthy play and receive tips about how to manage active unstructured play time.
Students and volunteer community members involved in delivering the project will benefit from the mentorship of trained College staff and from engagement with the community.