Playful parenting Top tips for playful parenting Things parents worry about The best things about playing are that it’s fun, anyone can join in, and it doesn’t have to cost much. But sometimes parents worry about play and this can get in the way. It can stop you playing together as a family, or giving your child the time, space and freedom to play. It’s natural and normal for parents to worry about their children and what they are getting up to when they’re playing. Here are some of the worries we hear most frequently – and our answers. Should my child spend less time on screens, playing on the computer or watching TV? How can I tackle this? Given the choice, most children prefer to play outdoors and value the independence it offers and the opportunities for discovery. When children have a range of things to do and places to play, it is easier for them to manage their own use of digital technology. It also makes it easier for parents to help them strike a good balance. Children naturally follow adults’ example, so if parents spend a lot of their free time watching TV or on their mobile phones or tablets, children will probably want to do the same. Try to limit your own screen use when your child is around, and to model how to use devices positively. Computers and screens are now part of children’s lives, so what matters is balance – time for school, time for computers and other devices, and time for playing. It’s important to remember that computer games are designed to be compulsive. As a parent, you need to keep an eye on the amount of time your child spends looking at screens. Try to actively encourage your child to switch off and to play in a different way. Parents sometimes think computers and TVs can be good for their children. They can, but it’s good to be aware of their limitations and potential dangers. For example: Some computer games encourage physical activity – but they don’t use as many calories as playing outdoors. Screen-based activities ‘keep children occupied and out of harm’s way’ – but sitting down so much can have negative effects for children’s health in the long-term. Parents need to take great care to protect children and young people online, and to help them learn to protect themselves, too. Read our Top tips for screen time What happens if my child gets hurt when we are playing outside? I don’t want to seem irresponsible. Parents and carers hear powerful and sometimes contradictory messages about keeping children safe. Try not to let this stop you allowing your child to play outdoors. The benefits of playing outside greatly outweigh any risks. Try to avoid focusing on all the – probably unlikely – ways your child could get hurt while playing outside. Take a careful but positive approach. You know your child better than anyone else, so watch them while they play. You will see that most children don’t put themselves at risk of serious harm. Part of your job as a parent is to help your child learn to make their own decisions about risk and possible dangers. This needs to start when they are young. This is the best way of preparing them to make good, confident choices. When the time comes for them to play outside without you, they will be able to do this confidently and wisely. There’s nowhere in our neighbourhood for my child to play – where can they go? Most children will play anywhere if they have the freedom, time, and space to play, and other children to play with. They don’t need an official playground. But local authorities and play associations in Wales do have a responsibility to provide play facilities and staffed play provision in their areas. You can find out more about what is available by looking online. Search for your local authority’s website online and see what play provision they offer Visit our Play Services Directory for a list of play contacts throughout Wales. Everyone’s neighbourhood is different, but there’s sure to be a local park, playground or ‘playable’ space close to where you live. If there aren’t any play areas or parks, there are usually other open spaces that can be used for playing such as a patch of grass. Should we really play outside when it’s raining? We adults are often more put off than children when the weather is bad. Splashing around in puddles can be great fun! There are lots of practical things you can do to make it easier for your child to play in the rain. I’m on a really tight budget and can’t afford toys or play equipment – what can I do? Most of us have a free outdoor play area or play facilities close to where we live. Wherever your child is playing – indoors or outdoors – there are usually things you can find around the house that they can use for playing. [Link to relevant page – for example Stuff for play – or Everyday adventures?] Is it really safe for my child to play outside? Most of us remember the joy and freedom we felt when we were children and played outside. The benefits were enormous: We met and had adventures with friends We got to know our own neighbourhood well and travelled around it confidently We got to know the people in our area – working out who to avoid and who to trust. And they got to know and trust us (or not!) We were physically active We were self-reliant, resourceful and independent. We all have a responsibility to support and prepare our children so they can play outside confidently in our local communities. What if I can’t bear the mess and noise? It’s normal for children to be noisy and messy when they’re playing. Noise shows that your child is communicating and interacting. If the noise is a real problem, try suggesting quieter games, or a different place where they can play and have more freedom. To manage mess, make tidying up into a game, or turn a blind eye. It’s worth asking yourself what is more important: valuable play experiences or tidiness? Make sure your child has a place they can make their own.