Play Action International is delighted to announce that thanks to support from the Milton Keynes Community Foundation grant scheme, disadvantaged children in Milton Keynes will be able to benefit from exciting play sessions to support their wellbeing and development as the UK merges from lockdown.
The last 12+ months of COVID and lockdown restrictions have had an impact on the mental health of children of all ages, with disadvantaged children being disproportionately affected. Children in Need’s 2020 report found that the impacts on children included:
- Isolation: children and families were missing personal connections, relationships and support from trusted adults and peers outside the home.
- Increased emotional wellbeing and mental health challenges: the pandemic was impacting on existing mental health and new issues were emerging for children and their parents. Anxiety, fear and stress are particular concerns.
- Pressure on family relationships: families were under pressure, from difficulties coping with stress and worry to crisis. Conflict and difficult relationships were increasing, whilst respite for children and parents was reducing.
- Reduced access to education & activities: children lacked the stimulation, development opportunities, structure & positive engagement these can bring.
- Risks to physical wellbeing: children’s physical wellbeing was at risk through reduced nutrition or physical activity for fitness, for those with health conditions, from the pandemic itself.
This is on top of a cultural shift towards increasingly screen-based, sedentary lifestyles for children even pre-pandemic, with play opportunities tending to be indoors and solitary. Community-based play opportunities provide a fantastic opportunity to address these issues as we emerge from lockdown.
Play is an essential part of every child’s life – critical to their health, wellbeing, and development. Children – whatever their age, ability, culture, ethnicity or social and economic background – need and want to play, both in indoors and outdoors. Play enables children to…
- develop their abilities and explore their creativity
- stretch, challenge themselves and learn about risks
- build confidence, learn skills and develop resilience
- be mentally stimulated, healthy and active
- learn about themselves, other people and the world around them
Play also provides a whole variety of therapeutic opportunities for recovery from negative experiences; enabling children to process anger, relieve stress, relax, bond with others, express themselves, increase their locus of control, overcome challenges and model positive behaviours.
Through our Milton Keynes Community Foundation grant, Play Action International will help children in Milton Keynes access these benefits by piloting our UK Nudelkart programme in the local area. The grant will enable us to provide 20 play sessions in child-centred places such as libraries, nurseries and primary schools, reaching 500 children. Sessions will bring children together after so many months apart or socially distanced, and support the cognitive, social, emotional and physical development of children through a play-based approach.
The sessions will be delivered using an award-winning, state-of-the-art creative play kart (the Nudelkart) which can be used by up to 30 x 3–12 year olds both indoors and outdoors. The kart’s 200+ open-ended ‘loose parts’ can be reconfigured in endless ways by children and encourage self-directed learning and development. Nudelkarts are all inclusive and for all abilities, and their proven impact includes:
- Strongly encouraging child agency and intrinsic learning motivation.
- Supercharging the brain and evoke higher order thinking skills.
- Supporting critical life skills such as problem solving, resilience and
- Supporting psychosocial development.
- Creating close and caring relationships between parents, carers/educators
- and the child.
- Giving children confidence and success in their own abilities creating a strong sense of wellbeing.
Following a successful pilot, we then plan to train 1-2 volunteers in the community so they can offer more sessions to local primary schools and community groups.
The project will maximise the impact of Milton Keynes Community Foundation’s grant as lockdown ends and organised activities can restart. Watch this space to find out more about this exciting project.
This work has been supported by funding from MK Community Foundation