Why is Play Important?

“Why is Play Important?” – Dr Juliet Carpenter summarises the GCHU’s work in the ‘Science Together’ programme which has led to the recently published report on the importance of Play in Oxfordshire.

“Why is Play Important?”

This was the key question at the heart of a recent collaborative project between Oxfordshire Play Association, the University of Oxford, and Oxford Brookes University.

The collaboration was part of the University of Oxford’s ‘Science Together’ programme, that aimed to bring researchers at both Universities together with local community groups in and around the city. The idea was to put the Universities’ research skills at the disposal of communities, to address key challenges identified by the grassroots community groups.

The ‘match-making’ took place through facilitated online workshops, to identify common interests and relevant skills that could be applied to address each community group’s needs. In this case, Oxfordshire Play Association (OPA) was interested in partnering with researchers to help make a case for why play is important for the health and wellbeing of children, young people, their families and the wider community within Oxfordshire. Since 2008 and the onset of austerity and public sector cuts, funding for play in Oxfordshire has seen a significant fall, as it is not a priority for dwindling Council budgets. OPA wanted to gather evidence through a literature review, to make the case for the importance of play in Oxfordshire, and how it is fundamental to health and wellbeing not only for children and young people, but much more widely within the community going forward. The aim was to produce a report and flyer that could be circulated to local stakeholders and in particular, local councils to make the case for increasing funding for play throughout the county.

The workshops led to a collaboration of four researchers with diverse interests and experience that partnered with Oxfordshire Play Association to produce such a document: Dr Juliet Carpenter (Global Centre on Healthcare and Urbanisation, Kellogg College, Oxford University); Dr Andrei Constantin (Department of Physics, Oxford University); Dr Mina Samangooei (School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University); and Dr Kate Wilmut (Centre for Psychological Research, Oxford Brookes University).  Together, they took the lead from Martin Gillett, Manager at Oxfordshire Play Association, who set out the needs of OPA.

With research assistance support from Brookes Psychology graduate Fruzsina Urban, together with facilitation support from Oxford University’s Science Together team Polly Kerr (Primary Care), Oli Moore (Science Engagement Facilitator) and Saskia O’Sullivan (Department of Chemistry), this interdisciplinary team set about reviewing and synthesising recent evidence on why play is important. The report brings together the key arguments for the critical importance of investing in play, referring back to the case of Oxfordshire to highlight the need for support across the county.

The infographic above summarises the key findings, and you can read the full report here.

For further information, contact Martin Gillett, Oxfordshire Play Association, [email protected]