The importance of play for our children’s recovery coming out of lockdown - Helen Westerman

In today's column, Helen Westerman discusses the importance of play - even online - for our children's recovery coming out of lockdown.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 11:45 am
(Photo by SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images)

Each week I try to share advice about helping to keep our children safe online, signposting to helpful resources such as Net Aware, our co created website with O2, which has lots of reviews, tips and resources when it comes to tackling potential online harms. The internet is a wonderful resource for our children and it is important as parents and carers to feel confident in talking with our children about the potential risks in their online world. But it is also equally important to talk about the great resources available online too. During lockdown, our children have spent more time online, to keep up with learning, to stay connected with their friends and extended family members but they also went online to keep entertained and play games. And online gaming is big business.

Play, such a simple word but an essential part of our child’s development. Research has shown that play, including playing games online, is essential for improving and maintaining our children’s mental health. That’s important to consider especially considering that mental health has remained the top reason young people have got in touch with Childline, and latest data has revealed that there have been 73,088 counselling sessions about mental or emotional health alone since April last year.

I am so incredibly proud of our Childline volunteers at our base in Leeds, which only takes online contacts from children and young people, who did so much to ensure we could be here during these extraordinary times. In fact, because of their efforts so many more young people were able to access Childline’s online resources, information and tools to support their own mental health in ways and at times that were most convenient and helpful to them. The week the March 2020 lockdown began for instance there were over 10,000 pageviews of the Childline’s Calm Zone, which offers breathing exercises and activities to help let go of stress.

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So talk has now turned to recovery and play could be an essential part of that process. So ahead of the NSPCC’s Childhood Day on June 11th, we are asking the UK to come together to play, raise money and help us work to keep children safe both in the real world and their online world. Why not battle your way through your children’s favourite online games, or livestream a gaming event for instance? However you choose to play, with your help and donations, we can ensure that our children are not the generation defined by the pandemic but are the generation who went onto thrive despite it.

To find out more about Childhood Day and get your free fundraising pack with lots of play ideas visit: nspcc.org.uk/childhood-day