OKN Logo

All Children and Youth Thrive!

Father and Son Playing Together at Home

November 20th is National Child Day 2014

 National Child Day is a day that recognizes the 1989 adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which spells out the basic human rights for children and youth.

This year it’s all about play. The Canadian Child Care Federation has selected Article 31, “The Right to Play,” as its theme for National Child Day. Article 31 is about the child’s 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.”

 Celebrate National Child Day with play-based learning

When children play they learn important skills, including social, emotional, physical and cognitive skills.

In our last Kindergarten Parent Survey (KPS)*, we asked parents of kindergarten-aged children about play and learning.  Almost all parents surveyed (96%) agreed that play makes a difference in their child’s development. Fully 88% of parents recognized that the time their child spends playing is also time that their child is learning.  Although parents recognize the importance of play, only just over half (55%) reported actively participating in their child’s play on a regular basis (frequently or every day).

With the adoption of full-day kindergarten and play-based learning, the early learning landscape is evolving. Some parents may see play and learning as separate activities; others might view structured rather than unstructured play as having more learning value, and some expect a balance between play and traditional ideas of learning activities.

 I feel the kindergarten program is TOO play based!!! There is not enough attention to reading, writing and math. There is a lot of untapped potential in 3-5 year olds that is not reached by just allowing free play for hours at a time. I think free play has its benefits but should be limited to a shorter period of time and more time spent on structured learning – Parent, KPS 2012

 Although parents generally share practitioners’ beliefs about the benefits of play, truly supporting this style of learning means more active involvement.

How can you engage parents?

Research suggests four main areas that adults can get involved: 1) role model, 2) preparing an appropriate play environment, 3) observing play, and by 4) guiding children’s discovery.

Here are a few evidence-based tips that you can use to promote play-based learning and encourage the parents you work with to be more active in their child’s play.

  • Talk about the learning outcomes of play with parents – social, emotional, cognitive, creative, and physical. Point them to appropriate resources on-line
  • Promote parents as facilitators of play. Encourage them to schedule daily play-time at home and to join in and play with their children
  • Help parents find appropriate play activities at home. Suggest activities that match the child’s current interests
  • Encourage parents to take an interest in their child’s play by asking open-ended and person-centred questions. For example, ask about the characteristics of the toy that the child is playing with – how many wings does a butterfly have? Do they like sunlight?
  • Encourage parents to incorporate play into everyday activities that they are already doing. Parents might think that active participation takes a lot of extra time in their already busy schedules. By using everyday situations or chores as opportunities for play, parents can find more time to actively participate in their child’s play. Even helping with chores, like putting toys away, can help children learn important scientific or mathematical concepts like size and numbers
  • Outdoor play is just as valuable for learning, and recreational activities are a great way for parents to get involved. Children have a lot of energy. Physical activity encourages the development of important movement skills such as running, hopping and balancing. Recommend a local park that the family can explore together and play outdoors


*The Kindergarten Parent Survey  (KPS) is a Halton-designed instrument that asks parents of kindergarten-aged children about the experiences of children and families in Halton. The survey was administered online in 2012 and 1628 parents responded.