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Minister for Childcare and Early Years launches #AwayandPlay to help Scotland’s kids get the best start in life

Minister for Childcare and Early Years launches #AwayandPlay to help Scotland’s kids get the best start in life

Iconic Beano comic character, Dennis the Menace, joined Mark McDonald MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Childcare and Early Years, to launch a new campaign highlighting the benefits to children of free and creative play.

The year-long campaign, “Away and Play”, is powered by Inspiring Scotland.  It will highlight the benefits of free and unstructured play in encouraging imagination, promoting risk-taking, improving health and helping children collaborate.

Inspiring Scotland cite global studies which provide evidence that play helps children as they grow up and can lead to more innovative, entrepreneurial and caring societies in the future. The campaign directly supports the ambitions of Scotland’s National Play Strategy and the work of Scotland’s national play body – Play Scotland and the Play Council Members.

Because 2017 is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, “Away and Play” will also work with partners such as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and the Forestry Commission to give ideas to parents for year-round, all-weather outdoor play in Scotland and encourage them to allow their children to play in a less structured and more imaginative way.

Launching the campaign at a ‘Play on Wheels’ event at Kingspark Primary School in Dundee, Scottish Government Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald MSP was joined by famous comic book characters such as Dennis the Menace to show how play can particularly help improve imagination and learning in young people.

Research published in the academic journal Early Education and Development is part of a growing body of research on the subject. This has shown that children with higher levels of active outdoor play had improved cognition which resulted in better academic performance in reading and mathematics.

These findings are supported by evidence from Inspiring Scotland’s Active Play programme, which currently works with primary schools in Glasgow in partnership with Glasgow City Council, through which class teachers have reported greater alertness and focus from children following active outdoor play sessions.

Dennis the Menace said: “Kids don’t need grown-ups to tell us how to play, we just use our imagination! Think kid: away and play!”

Mark McDonald, Minister for  Childcare and Early years said: “I am delighted to be launching ‘Away and Play’ this morning to highlight and promote the easy ways we can make active outdoor play a part of everyday in Scotland.

“We know that active outdoor play has significant and far reaching benefits on children’s health, well-being and academic achievement.  And playing doesn’t need expensive equipment or facilities, just outdoor space.

“Through away and play we’re really aiming to get everyone across Scotland back outside and playing in Scotland’s natural playground. So let’s unplug the computer, open the back door, put our wellies on and away and play.”

Celia Tennant, Chief Executive of Inspiring Scotland, said: “Children thrive on play.  Active, child-led play allows children to use their imagination and creativity where they develop their own games and imaginary scenarios.  Play creates a realm of dragons and superheroes where everything is possible, a place where a stick becomes a wand and a puddle can be the ocean.”

“When encouraged to be creative in play, children gain the confidence to develop and express their own ideas and thoughts.  Learning to use their imagination and think creatively exercises the mind and boosts children’s ability to learn and understand complex concepts.

“We believe that the creativity and mental flexibility that play engenders is vital to ensuring we have the innovative entrepreneurs we will need in the future. Furthermore, playing in a way that is physically active is proven to stimulate mental alertness and helps children to focus and learn in educational environments.  In short, playing is good for the brain.”

Visit Inspiring Scotland’s #AwayandPlay webpage for play events near you and information on how to take part.

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