More than 190 families took part in this month´s Gamethon, which was organised by the British Council School as part of its WellbeingHub, and also commemorating Universal Children´s Day. The project is aimed at children and has the purpose of promoting Children´s fundamental right to play, as well as the responsibility which parents and teachers have, to let them do so, motivate them and most importantly play with them. Ultimately, Gamethon is designed for everyone to reflect on the importance of play in young children´s education. The importance of learning to play together, rediscovering long-lost games and for parents and grandparents to remember the childlike nature we all carry inside ourselves.
As Mercedes Hernández Estrada, the Headmistress at the British Council School in Madrid, said: “Protecting Childhood has always been of the key strategic principles of our work around the world. The British Council School is one of the very few educational institutions which has its very own child protection department. We believe that the health and wellbeing of children is fundamental. And the right to play is one of the central pillars of their development.”
Almost 200 families, including grandparents, parents and children took part in the Gamethon, which was also sponsored by Nintendo, and included both national and international experts on education and children. These spoke about the importance of play and the undeniable right which those very youngest have to play.
Adrian Voce, President of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities, talked about how one can connect with children in a different way through play and how play is: “the main tool with which children learn to take decisions, take risks and learn how to react to different situations. It teaches them to be creative, to learn and amongst other things, how to control their emotions and stress levels.”
And he emphasized the importance of the role of Government in different countries, to guarantee that this should be a reality for children. “We have to get away from the idea that children should only play in defined spaces. It is necessary for Governments to support development plans which meet children´s needs to play, allowing for un-planned, spontaneous play areas, free from traffic and safely designed for children. We should allow children, permission, opportunity and space to play.”
Along the same lines, Andrés Paya, an expert on education and play, the founding member of the Childs Play Observatory, also added that: “If we didn´t play, we wouldn´t exist. We are thinking beings, who do things because we have to, but we also play a lot. We wouldn´t be human if we didn´t play. It is not just important in early childhood, but also through all phases of educational development. Children express themselves by drawing, but also by playing. That is their language and it is an excellent communication and analysis tool, sometimes even better than asking questions.”
He also highlighted the importance of play, as the space which children need “to break down barriers. Initially age barriers, but also other socio-economic barriers. Play doesn´t distinguish between sex or gender. It doesn´t distinguish between different ethnic groups or language. Nor between religion or culture. It is just about sharing living space, with a similar age group, where there is real diversity.”
In order to promote all these initiatives, the British Council School has published a small guide about the importance of play at the different stages of a Child´s development. It stresses that play is an activity which begins from the very earliest moments of a Child´s life, and that it plays an on-going role in children´s development, in a variety of different ways. Video games and other electronic games play an important role in a Child´s development. They are a leisure activity which demands a high level of concentration. Video games are a recreational activity which children themselves understand well. But there is also scope for some kinds of digital entertainment which are whole family activities, bringing together those born with a video game under their arm, with those others, who have never even been near a games console.
Video games such as the one which we had at the Gamethon, Super Mario Party, exercise skill, memory and reflexes. But they also include the feelings and emotions of all those huddled around the players, acting like a kind of family glue. If you are an expert, or even if you have never played a video game, there is always the opportunity to have some great family conversations. What is always guaranteed, is immediate fun and lots of smiles for the whole family.