Back to Blog

Prioritising Play with Adele Cleaver

Posted on 4 August 2021

Adele Cleaver is a mother, partner and playworker. With years’ of experience in playwork, she has published her first book Children Don’t Dissolve in the Rain – a powerful, relatable account of family life where play is a priority. Adele has previously volunteered with Play Action International, where she worked with a local community in Kenya to build a playground, enriching the lives of disadvantaged children. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she also helped our organisation to develop play resources to support parents and children during lockdown. We talked to Adele to find out more about her new book and why prioritising play is so important for children and adults alike.

Where is your favourite place to play?

This year, I have loved being at home…unstructured, timeless play took priority. If you asked me last year, I would have said outdoors in the community. Big, outdoor community play, mixed ages, multigenerational, loads of loose parts, street closures of festivals of play, neighbours laughing together, cups of tea being brought out onto the doorstep…

You write about parents prioritising their own play. What tips do you have for new parents to help them play?

Play is personal to all of us. We all have our own ways to play, to bring us joy, to help us switch off from the outside world or help us cope with what is going on around us. I try and tune into the intrinsic motivation element of play as much as possible. Children don’t over-analyse their actions or behaviours, they have a freedom which is unique to childhood in that they, for the most part, just don’t care what other people think of them while they are playing. Unfortunately, we lose this carelessness with age. I recommend adults follow their gut more, listen to that intrinsic motivation and let themselves play.

You talk about play as a coping strategy. Can you tell us more?

If 2020 taught the world anything, it is that we all have an innate need to play to get us through a crisis. At the start of lockdown social media was full of snippets of young and old filling their days with creative and often bonkers behaviours; ‘Finally!’ ‘People are playing!’ And then children got bogged down with hour after hour of online worksheets and globally, concern for children’s development by professionals and parents has risen drastically.

Play matters. Playwork is painfully underfunded in the UK, yet all children’s professionals agree that play is crucial for a child’s development. The importance of play is often overlooked, because so little time is dedicated to play in our fast-paced, consumerist world. Play is therapeutic and children get 90% of their exercise through play. Adele shares her life story in the book, to motivate and encourage other parents to dedicate more time for child-led play at home and to feel empowered to start grassroots community play time on their doorstep.

Why is your book Children Don’t Dissolve in the Rain so timely?

This summer UK experts in child development are calling for a “Summer of Play” to help children recover from
the upheaval of the pandemic, this book will help parents and relatives as well as professionals from the children’s workforce and community members to prioritise play.

Play Action is joining the call for a Summer of Play and has recently launched its Summer of Play campaign, which aims to raise funds and awareness for the value of play in the UK. Find out more here. To get one of the last few signed copies of Adele’s incredible new book Children Don’t Dissolve in the Rain, click here.