National Playday…so much more than ‘child’s play’

child’s play (noun)


1:  an extremely simple task or act a complex task or act

2:  something that is insignificant   something of great importance

First known use 15th Century

Today on Wednesday 1st August it is National Playday and to celebrate children, young people and communities get out and play at hundreds of community events across the UK.  In Bradford there is a huge fun-day at Baildon Recreation Centre (from 1-4pm) with lots of free activities including inflatables, den building, water slide, giant zorbs, donkey rides, under 5s play area, climbing tower, spider mountain, go karts, rodeo bull, ultimate wipeout, bungee trampolines, assault course and hovercraft rides! For more details visit

Better Start Bradford will also be hosting a play day at Parkside Park in BD5 from 1-5pm, with loads of activities for children under 5!

As well as a celebration, National Playday is about understanding the importance of play and promoting play for all children.  In the past play has been undervalued, and this is shown in the phrase ‘child’s play’ which was first heard in the 15th century and is used to describe a simple task or something which is insignificant.  These days the importance of play has been recognised by the United Nations convention which says that for children, play is a human right; “every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts”.

So why is play so important for children?  Play contributes to healthy brain, physical, emotional, and social development.  By playing, children are strengthening many neuronal connections (connections between cells in the brain) that would otherwise disappear or weaken if not used.  When children are allowed to play without being told what to do, they become more focused, have greater attention spans, and improve their academic skills.  Active play builds healthy bodies.  When children play actively they are reducing their risk of being overweight and obese (whilst they are children and later as adults). They are also minimising the risk of future health problems including heart disease, type II diabetes, muscle and joint problems. Through play, children engage and interact with the world around them.  They develop new skills and build their confidence so that they are able to face future challenges. Children become more aware of their own and others’ feelings and how to manage feelings by expressing them and working through emotions in play. When children play in groups, they learn how to share, resolve conflicts, make decisions, be assertive, and work together. When parents play with their children in a way that allows the child to decide what they are going to do together, parent-child relationships and family life can improve.  Play builds children children’s imaginations, allows a child to express themselves and develop their own individuality.

So play is so much more that ‘child’s play’, it is a complex and vital part of children’s lives which contributes to healthy child development and fulfilment.  Above all play represents fun and freedom is a joyful part of childhood to be cherished.

To find out about more play events for children across Bradford this summer go to: for fun ideas for active play visit:  To read about our Born in Bradford research about active play and physical activity visit:

Sally Barber, Principal Research Fellow

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