Adventurous Play: A Prevention For Anxiety

You can listen to this podcast directly on our website or on the following platforms; SoundCloud, iTunes, Spotify, CastBox, Deezer, Google Podcasts, Podcastaddict, JioSaavn, Listen notes, Radio Public, and Radio.com (not available in the EU).

Posted on

For this podcast, in celebration of Playday (celebrated each year across the UK on the first Wednesday in August), we are joined by Professor Helen Dodd, Professor of Child Psychology in the College of Medicine and Health at the University of Exeter. The focus of this podcast is on child mental health and the importance of adventurous play.

As Playday encourages families, communities, and organizations to consider how they can build better opportunities for all children to play, Helen sets the scene by giving a brief overview of why play is so critical for children and young people.

Helen talks to us about how the pandemic has affected children’s play, before turning to her research on adventurous play and why she sees adventurous play as an antidote to anxiety.

Helen also discusses her recently published data that shows a link between adventurous and outdoor play and children’s mental health, as well as explains why she suggests that adventurous play itself can mitigate the risk of anxiety and explores her hypothesis that adventurous play targets some of the specific cognitive behavioural factors associated with child anxiety.

Helen further comments on her research into parental attitudes, including what interventions and campaigns can help change parental attitudes to adventurous play for overinvolved or anxious parents, as well as discusses how avoidant children and inhibited children can be supported to become more adventurous.

Furthermore, Helen shares her message to educators, CAMH professionals, policymakers, and other stakeholders when it comes to facilitating children to play in ways that may better support their mental health.

Subscribe to ACAMH mental health podcasts on your preferred streaming platform. Just search for ACAMH on; SoundCloudSpotifyCastBoxDeezerGoogle Podcasts, Podcastaddict, JioSaavn, Listen notesRadio Public, and Radio.com (not available in the EU). Plus we are on Apple Podcasts visit the link or click on the icon, or scan the QR code.

App Icon Apple Podcasts  

Professor Helen Dodd
Professor Helen Dodd

I am a Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Exeter working within the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Researh Collaboration (ChYMe). My research examines the development of anxiety disorders in children and the way that risk factors work together to affect children’s risk for anxiety. I am particularly how children respond to uncertainty and ambiguity and the role of child temperament and the family environment in children’s anxiety risk. I am currently funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship which funds a programme of work examining how adventurous play might offer learning opportunities that could help to prevent anxiety in children.

Transcript

[00:00:32.092] Jo Carlowe: Hello. Welcome to the In Conversation podcast series for the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, or ACAMH, for short. I’m Jo Carlowe, a freelance journalist, with a specialism in psychology. As part of ACAMH’s celebration of Playday, the National Day for Play on August the 3rd, I’m interviewing Helen Dodd, professor of Child Psychology in the College of Medicine and Health at the University of Exeter.

Helen is going to talk about child mental health and the importance of adventurous play. If you’re a fan of our In Conversation series, please subscribe on your preferred streaming platform. Let us know how we did with a rating or review, and do share with friends and colleagues. Helen, thanks for joining me. Can you start with a brief introduction about yourself and what you do?

[00:01:14.830] Professor Helen Dodd: Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me and for your support for Playday. It’s fantastic to hear people thinking about mental health and play together. Yeah, so I’m a professor of child psychology at the University of Exeter. I also hold a UKRI Future Leader Scholarship, which funds the research that I’ll be talking about today. So, my background is in child mental health and until a few years ago, I hadn’t really thought that much about children’s play. My research was all about understanding risk factors for anxiety, understanding why children become anxious, and thinking about what we can do to try and prevent children from developing problems with their anxiety. And then a few years ago I became interested in play, and particularly in adventurous play or risky play, and thinking about how that type of play might allow children to learn about some of the things that we try and kind of target in prevention work for anxiety. So that’s led me to doing this research now.

[00:02:05.500] Jo Carlowe: Playday encourages families, communities, and organizations to consider how they can build better opportunities for all children to play. Can you give a brief overview of why play is so critical for children and young people?

[00:02:19.660] Professor Helen Dodd: Play is what children do. It feels good to play. And I think it’s important when we talk about play, we always talk about children. But actually, it still feels good for us as adults, doesn’t it? If you think about when you do something, that no one’s telling you to do it. It’s not for work. It’s not something that you have to do, you’re just doing it for fun, and particularly, if you’re doing it with friends or with family, it feels good.

And so, first and foremost, play is important because it feels good, because it’s fun, because it brings joy to children’s lives. And if nothing else, is that not a good reason to be supporting play? Of course, alongside that, play offers lots of benefits and opportunities for children. So when we allow children space to play, and they have opportunities to have what we call free play, which is where they’re choosing what they do– they’re choosing when they start, when they stop, and as adults, we kind of take a bit of a step back.

When children do that, they have a really nice opportunity to have control over their lives, which actually children don’t have a lot of time when they have total control over their lives. And it offers an opportunity for them to express themselves, to explore their environments, to explore different feelings and emotions. It offers them an opportunity to connect with people around them by playing with them, by playing in a group, or one to one with friends and peers, and to develop that understanding of social relationships, but in this joyful, positive context.

And, of course, sometimes play goes wrong and children fall out. But then they have this opportunity to negotiate and to work out those problems. And so, so much learning actually is happening when children play. But for them, it doesn’t feel like learning. And it’s not the same as adults kind of setting up an activity for them to do in order for them to learn. They’re just playing because it feels good and it’s fun. And a really nice side effect of that is that they get this opportunity for autonomy, for control, for developing these social skills, for expressing themselves. And so, it’s just a really nice way of supporting children’s well-being.

[00:04:15.610] Jo Carlowe: I’m wondering how the pandemic has affected children’s play?

[00:04:18.902] Professor Helen Dodd: Yeah. It’s a really good question. And one of the positives, I think, with the pandemic is that people are talking about children’s play more than potentially ever before. During lockdown, children’s play was affected significantly in terms of their social play. So obviously, when children weren’t able to be in school, or weren’t able to leave the house and see their friends, then they missed out on huge opportunities for play with their friends.

And for lots of children during lockdown, they had– particularly that first lockdown– they had much more opportunity for play because they weren’t in school. So, if they were lucky enough to have siblings at home that they could play with, then they might have been playing more than ever. It’s important to remember that they still weren’t playing with their friends. They weren’t playing with children their own age. And those relationships are different. Some of that learning that happens that we talked about already in social play with friends doesn’t necessarily happen when you play with siblings because the dynamic is different. So, if you’ve got an older sibling, that older sibling might let you get your own way. They might not fall out with you in the same way. Or a parent might intervene and say, you two work it out.

Whereas, with friends, you have to kind get those things right, or they’ll just decide they don’t want to play with you anymore. It’s really important to keep in mind that during the lockdowns children missed out on that social play. But they might have had, otherwise, more play opportunities. But, of course, whenever we talk about the pandemic, we need to keep in mind that children’s opportunities and experiences have been very different. So we need to be really careful, I think, about generalizing that all children were playing outdoors and having this wonderful time. Because, of course, that wasn’t the case for all children. It massively varied, depending on how much space people have, particularly access to outdoor space. And so, for some children, their play would have been really restricted during lockdowns. Hopefully now that children are back in school and back able to see their friends again, they’re having more opportunity to play and kind of reconnect.

[00:06:13.830] Jo Carlowe: Let’s talk about outdoor space, because your research focuses on adventurous play, such as climbing trees or riding a bike fast downhill, and you see it as an antidote to anxiety. Why adventurous play?

[00:06:26.910] Professor Helen Dodd: As I said, my background has been in understanding anxiety in children and studying risk factors for anxiety. So, when I thought about this in the context of adventurous play, what I felt and argued in a theoretical paper that I wrote, together with Kathryn Lester, was that lots of these factors that we know are related to anxiety I think could be targeted by the particular experience that children have when they play adventurously.

So, for example, when children have an opportunity to play adventurously, what I mean by that is sort of at the edges of their comfort zone– so that exciting kind of thrilling play. And, of course, that differs from one child’s to the next, in terms of what that actually looks like. But I think most of us can relate to that feeling of doing something that feels a little bit scary, but also feels quite good.

So, when children play at the edges of their comfort zone and they experience uncertainty, they experience arousal in their body– so maybe butterflies in their tummy or sweaty palms. And so, learning happens whilst they’re having those experiences. So, they’re learning about what it feels like to feel uncertain, how it feels to have to evaluate risk and make a decision about whether you can or can’t do something. How much uncertainty is too much uncertainty? How do you gather information in that situation? And they’re learning about what happens to their bodies when they feel scared, when they feel nervous. But they’re learning about those in this positive context. So hopefully, when it goes well, what we’re proposing is that children learn that sometimes their heart races, and sometimes they get butterflies in their tummy. Sometimes they feel uncertain. But actually, those things in and of themselves aren’t something to be scared of. Because then good things can happen, because it can feel good because they’re having these positive play experiences at the same time. And that helps them then to develop a more positive approach to coping. So, they learn how to cope in a way that’s adaptive. So, when I feel these things, I know that I can cope. I know that I can deal with them in this way.

Really, overall, what we want is for children to have exposure to these slightly anxiety-provoking situations, but in a positive context, so that all this learning can take place. And then when they are exposed to something which is genuinely a bit more scary and isn’t in playful context, then they’re approaching that with, well, I know that these things happen in my body. I know these feelings. They’re familiar to me. I know what it feels like to feel uncertain. I know that I can cope. I know that if I give things a go when I feel scared, sometimes it feels good, and bad feelings go away and positive feelings come. So, it’s particularly about adventurous play, because it needs to have this slight exposure to fear and anxiety. And that’s where it links, really. So, prevention of anxiety and learning those skills, which we think would help to prevent anxiety if children have the opportunity to have that kind of play.

[00:09:14.280] Jo Carlowe: And that was the hypothesis in a conceptual paper. But since then, you’ve recently published data showing a link between adventurous and outdoor play and children’s mental health. What have you found?

[00:09:25.140] Professor Helen Dodd: That’s right. Yeah. So, a month or so ago, we published first kind of quantitative data showing a link between children’s adventurous play and their mental health. This paper includes data from two studies. So, one is a national study of children’s play in Britain– the British Children’s Play Survey. And the other study was a survey conducted in Northern Ireland. And the findings are nicely consistent across those two samples.

And what we found was that when children spend more time playing adventurously or more time playing outdoors, then they had lower levels of internalizing problems– so anxiety and depression symptoms. And we didn’t actually intend to do this, but COVID meant that we did. We conducted the survey just as we were going into lockdown in 2020. That meant that we could also ask parents how children were coping during that initial part of the pandemic.

We asked parents to tell us about children’s mood– so their positive mood and their negative mood. And we also found that children who in the year prior to the pandemic had had more opportunities to play adventurously, also had more positive mood, more positive affect during the initial phase of lockdown. That offered some support to our hypothesis that having these adventurous experiences allows children to cope better in anxiety-provoking situations.

[00:10:43.635] Jo Carlowe: It’s very interesting. But I have to ask the question that it’s a sort of chicken and egg situation. Because I would imagine that children who are less anxious are more likely to embrace adventurous play than their more cautious peers. What leads you to suggest it’s adventurous play itself that can mitigate the risk of anxiety, as opposed to adventurous players being by default less predisposed to anxiety?

[00:11:07.822] Professor Helen Dodd: Yeah. It’s such an important question. So, in the theory paper, then we’re arguing that adventurous play can offer these learning opportunities that should prevent anxiety. In the data that we just talked about, as cross-sectional data, you’re absolutely right, that it could be the other way around. So, children who are less anxious play more adventurously. Obviously, what we would expect actually is that that’s a bidirectional relationship.

I totally agree that children who are less anxious might be more likely to play adventurously. But equally, I think that there are good reasons for thinking that opportunities for adventurous play could prevent anxiety. So, some things to kind of keep in mind, in terms of how we’ve interpreted that data, is that, first of all, the way we defined adventurous play in that data was from having a mild level of adventure.

So we’re not talking about quite extreme adventurous activities. It was any play where there was at least a mild level of adventure– so a little bit of excitement. I don’t imagine that at that level there would be huge differences between children who were more anxious and less anxious. It’s more the kind of extreme things that where you would see differences I think. The other thing is in that data, we saw that the relationship between adventurous play and children’s internalizing difficulties was stronger in children from low-income families.

And there isn’t any reason for thinking the relationship in the other direction would be stronger in children from low-income families. But it does make sense that adventurous play, if it’s protective, might be more important for children living in low-income families. So, I think there are some hints that there could be that direction of adventurous play preventing anxiety. But I think some of the effect, as you describe, is likely the other way as well. We’re actually already starting some work at the moment where we’re trying to change children’s play, so that we can really target that question. The best way of finding out is saying, well, if we change children’s play opportunities, what happens to their mental health? Watch this space for the outcomes from that data.

[00:13:07.500] Jo Carlowe: I want to look at what you think what the mechanisms are at play. So, you hypothesize that adventurous play targets some of the specific cognitive behavioural factors associated with child anxiety. But what can you tell us?

[00:13:20.640] Professor Helen Dodd: In the theoretical paper, we talk about four main mechanisms that are related to what we would do in cognitive behavioural therapy. So a major one is about avoidance versus approach behaviours. So, a key factor that underpins anxiety [INAUDIBLE] is avoidance. So, if we avoid things that we feel fearful of, then we never learn not to be fearful of them.

And so, one of the things that we think happens when children play adventurously is it offers an opportunity for prevention of avoidance of fear and a motivation to engage, because it’s in a playful, fun, child-led context, which feels quite different to taking a child in therapy and getting them to face a fear that they’re really scared of. That’s a big factor is for the child to learn about the benefits of approaching something even when you feel a little bit scared.

Another factor is reduction of intolerance of uncertainty. So as I talked about before, when children are exposed to a level of uncertainty, then they will learn about uncertainty. And what we think is that when children have that exposure to uncertainty, then they will learn that it’s not actually anything to be scared of in and of itself. So, we imagine that adventurous play can help to reduce that intolerance of uncertainty, or prevent an intolerance and uncertainty from developing.

We also talk about coping mechanisms, prevention of maladaptive coping mechanisms, and the promotion of adaptive coping mechanisms. And with anything, children need opportunity to learn about coping. And so adventurous play offers an opportunity to learn about coping. But, again, in this positive context, where children can try things out and see what works and see what helps and what doesn’t, so hoping adventurous play can offer opportunities to learn this adaptive coping style.

And then the other factor is around physiological arousal– so having that exposure to physiological arousal, and the interpretations of that. If you imagine a childhood where you haven’t ever had these opportunities, you’ve never felt what it feels like to be scared and for the things that happen to your body. And then suddenly something happens where you do feel a bit scared when these things happen, that could be quite overwhelming. Like, what’s happening to my body? How do I interpret that? Is something wrong with my heart? Why is it racing like that? If you’ve experienced those feelings whilst riding your bike, then you understand what’s happening with your body, and you don’t make misinterpretations of that physiological arousal. So those are the four mechanisms that we focus on in the theory paper regarding why adventurous play might be able to target some of the cognitive behavioural factors involved in anxiety.

[00:15:56.500] Jo Carlowe: Opportunity for adventurous play, I assume, is influenced by parents. And I’m thinking that overinvolved or anxious parents are likely to dissuade their children from adventurous play. You’ve looked at parental attitudes, I believe. What interventions and campaigns can help change parental attitudes?

[00:16:14.897] Professor Helen Dodd: The research has been done by some members of my team. Brooke Oliver and Rachel Nesbit has looked at parent attitudes, and we’ve interviewed parents about adventurous play. And also, looking at parent mental health and how that’s related to children’s play opportunities. And you’re right, that when parents are more anxious, then their child is less likely to play adventurously. And parents, themselves, when we talk to them, will identify that often their anxiety gets in the way.

An important finding from that work has been that almost all parents we’ve spoken to have been able to recognize that this type of play is good for children, and they want to offer it to their children. So, I don’t think that the sort of intervention work or public health messaging needs to be about the benefits. I think parents know that it’s good. I think it’s more about how we make it happen by addressing some of the barriers and the things that are getting in the way.

Partly, I think that’s about risk perceptions. The risk actually of a child being injured during play is substantially lower than is the risk of them being injured during sports. And yet, when children play sports, we tend to not be worried about them getting hurt. There’s some work to do around understanding that and appreciating that the risk of children actually being injured when they’re playing is quite low.

And understanding, too, that children judge risk well if we give them space to do so. I think often as adults we don’t trust children to make those judgments. And actually, then we step in, and we remove opportunity for them to learn in order to improve their judgments. But children don’t want to hurt themselves. They have a survival instinct the same as the rest of us. And there is research showing that if we give children just the space and we trust them, then they don’t actually take risks that would hurt themselves. They tend to do that more when we stop them. And then they get defiant, and then they do something that’s more risky. There’s some work around risk perceptions.

And also, supporting parents with their own mental health. And parent mental health is a huge factor in children’s mental health, thinking about how can we support parents with their mental health, which would have huge benefits for parents. But also, these knock-on effects on children, and an opportunity to play more adventurous there’s only one of those in terms of the benefits that that would offer children. The other thing that I think is really important to keep in mind is that parents don’t exist in a vacuum. So parents are part of a wider system around children. And the work that we’ve done with parents tells us that many other factors in that system are important. And so just trying to work with parents or put the blame on parents isn’t going to work. It doesn’t make sense, because parents will give their children more chance to play adventurously if there are good facilities for doing so, if there’s a sense of community, if other parents are doing the same thing, if there’s good support for it.

If they feel like they’re being judged by other parents, then that will affect what they do. If their local park is somewhere they don’t feel is safe to go to, then they won’t use it. We really need to keep in mind that it’s not just about parents, it’s about the entire infrastructure that exists around parents, and community safety, road safety, facilities, policy are all important in feeding into what parents then actually do.

[00:19:29.950] Jo Carlowe: You mentioned earlier avoidant children, inhibited children, which is mentioned in your research. How can these children be supported to become more adventurous?

[00:19:39.322] Professor Helen Dodd: Yeah. It’s a very good question. It’s something I think about a lot. Because before I started doing this work, a lot of my research was with children who were inhibited and at risk for anxiety. And so, I think with those children– often, I talk about children just being given space and time to play, and they will just get on with it. And most of them will just play adventurously by themselves. And I wonder with more inhibited children, it may be that it needs to be a bit more structured, that they need some modelling. They need to see other children doing it, or a parent doing it with them, and to be able to see that it’s fun. And that even though it feels a little bit scary, actually, that’s part of the fun.

And that there are these positive things to come from it, too. So I think some of it is modelling. Some it’s kind of scaffolding and encouragement, and realizing that the adventure level depends on the child. So whilst what one child might be thinking of as adventurous, another child might think of as terrifying. But that child might think, you know what? If I’m just going to walk along this wall and balance, that might be adventurous for that child.

So, this isn’t about trying to get all children doing crazy, exciting, thrilling, risky things. Like, not all children want to do that, or would find that fun. It is about that place where it is still fun. So, it’s exciting, but not terrifying. And so, thinking about, well, what does that mean for this particular child? And it may be that they’ll do a little bit, and then they might want to push a little bit more with those experiences. But it doesn’t matter whether they do or not. What’s important is that they’re given the support to be able to have those, “ooh, this is exciting” experiences.

[00:21:15.090] Jo Carlowe: Does that apply across all ages, the need for adventurous play?

[00:21:19.630] Professor Helen Dodd: I think the more children have these experiences as they make their way through childhood, then the more embedded these hopefully positive outcomes will be. So, it’s not ideal to take a 13-year-old who’s never been given any opportunity for adventurous play, and then say let’s do it now. But that would be better than not doing it at all. We start to give children space to explore right from when they start trying out walking.

And then we have to immediately start judging the rest. Like, do we let them try and take a few steps? Are they going to fall down? We do let them take a few steps, because we understand that walking is necessary and it’s part of their learning. So, I think it’s applying that same approach, that sometimes we need to let them do some things that might feel a little bit scary for us as parents or caregivers, and doing that kind of throughout their childhood.

But I do think that this idea of adventure experiences being positive applies across the lifespan. And there’s quite a lot of research, actually, with adults in terms of the positive effects on mental health for adventure experiences. So going kayaking or rock climbing or– there’s something positive that comes from pushing ourselves a bit, and having those kind of exciting, thrilling experiences.

[00:22:33.180] Jo Carlowe: Helen, you mentioned that you were involved with some interventions earlier, and you were involved with some schemes in schools in Birmingham to change play. What can you tell us about these projects?

[00:22:43.020] Professor Helen Dodd: In order to really tap into whether adventurous play can improve children’s mental health, ideally, what we need to do is to try and change play. So, some of the work that we’re doing we’re doing in collaboration with an organization called OPAL, which is Outdoor Play and Learning. And we’re working, as you said with two schools in Birmingham, where OPAL are delivering their program, their intervention, which is around children’s play at playtime.

And a big part of that program is about what they call risk reframing– rethinking risk. And thinking about rather than reduction of all risk, it’s about taking a risk-benefit approach, where you think, OK, well, if there’s a risk, is there a benefit for the child? And it’s OK to have some risk if there’s some benefit. It makes no sense to put children at risk if it’s not offering a benefit. But a child walking along a balance beam, for example, there’s a risk that they might fall off, but there’s a benefit they learn to balance.

So they’re taking that approach, and really encouraging schools to think about their play times, think about how they can be more creative with their play times. They introduce lots of what we call loose parts to the playground. So that might be things like tires or crates or chalk, sand. Recycled things can be reused, like old sheets for building dens. So, lots of things that children can use to be adventurous and creative with.

And it’s not about making all children be adventurous. It’s about providing opportunity for children to express themselves in their play, and adults taking that step back a bit and letting children lead their play, and not jumping in and saying, no, don’t do that. Get down from that. Giving them space to explore those sort of adventure experiences, whilst also, of course, making sure that they’re not pushing that too far. And we don’t want lots of children getting injured. But, for example, school playgrounds where they might have trees, then they might put rope swings in the trees, or they might let the children climb the trees, for example, which most schools typically wouldn’t allow. So, they’re going to be delivering this intervention into schools. And we’re doing quite intensive work before they start, which is now complete. And in a year’s time, we’re going to go back and have a look at how play has changed. And also, have a look at how it’s affected children’s mental health, and also children’s well-being and enjoyment of school as well, which I think are important factors to keep in mind here, too.

[00:25:06.150] Jo Carlowe: Yeah. That’s going to be so interesting. You’ve talked about some of the barriers to adventurous play. And I’m wondering what your message is to educators, CAMH professionals, policymakers, and other stakeholders when it comes to facilitating children to play in ways that may better support their mental health?

[00:25:25.607] Professor Helen Dodd: I think the first thing is that people need to think about play. So often, play is forgotten, though it’s in our early year’s curriculum, for example, until children are five. And it’s not in the national curriculum once children are past five. The physical activity guidelines refer to play for under-fives. But once children get to five, then there’s no mention of play in physical activity guidelines. Until recently, people working in mental health didn’t really talk about play very much.

So, I think one of the things is just realizing that play has a value, and we need to think about it in our policies. So, whether that’s kind of local authority planning policies, in terms of development of playgrounds; active travel so that children can access playgrounds, et cetera. Or whether that’s education policy, or whether it’s thinking about when you’re working with a family in CAMHS, for example, thinking about that broader context. So, what is this child’s play experience? Are they having opportunity to play? Does this parent know how to play with this child? And really, think about using play as a way of supporting relationships, giving children control, giving children opportunity to express themselves. And then beyond that, I think it’s about– I think across professions, we need to think about how we give children the space and time for play, and that freedom and opportunity to lead their own play.

One of the things that’s motivated this whole program of research is that over the past few decades, we’ve seen a decline in the amount of time children spend outdoors, the amount of freedom they get, the age they’re allowed out by themselves. And they’re quite dramatic changes to childhood. And so, we need to be conscious of those, and thinking about how can we balance that? And we don’t want those trends to continue, so that children are becoming 13, 14 before they’re going out by themselves, or allowed to go out and play with their friends. At the moment, it’s about age 11. Parents’ generation– they went out when they were about nine to play by themselves. So how do we prevent that kind of [INAUDIBLE] freedoms from kind of getting worse? And how do we ideally compensate for some of that by providing children with the time and space to play?

[00:27:32.700] Jo Carlowe: Helen, what else is in the pipeline for you, either in terms of follow-up research or other projects that you’d like to mention?

[00:27:39.585] Professor Helen Dodd: At the moment, as I said, we’re working with these two schools in Birmingham. Depending on the outcome of those, we’re hoping to develop that further and do a small randomized controlled trial to see whether that would be feasible to do it as a kind of big trial. I’m working with some clinical psychology colleagues on a program for parents– so particularly parents who are anxious, thinking about how we can support their anxiety, particularly thinking about in order to allow their children to play. So that will initially be a pilot program.

We want to do a follow-up national survey, so that we can see how COVID has affected trends in children’s play. And so that would be really interesting to follow up as well. And continuing to do our work in schools, and also thinking about how the work in schools might be used to reach parents as well. So rather than directly trying to make changes via parents, but thinking about if we change things in schools, does that kind of model for parents that this type of play is OK, and have influences outside of school?

[00:28:39.173] Jo Carlowe: Finally, Helen, what is your takeaway message for those listening to our conversation?

[00:28:43.870] Professor Helen Dodd: I think it’s that play is a really fun, joyful opportunity for children. It’s central to childhood. And we need to make sure that children have time and space in their lives to do it– so that’s physical space and psychological space. If you’re in a position where you’re influencing how children spend their time, whether that’s as a parent or as a professional, then think about play. And try and make sure that children have opportunity to have that freedom and opportunity to play, particularly with other children.

[00:29:12.085] Jo Carlowe: Brilliant. Thank you so much. For more details on Professor Helen Dodd, please visit the ACAMH website, www.acamh.org. And Twitter @acamh. ACAMH is spelled A-C-A-M-H. And don’t forget to follow us on your preferred streaming platform. Let us know if you enjoyed the podcast with a rating or review, and do share with friends and colleagues.

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published.

*