Parents spend 1,300 hours playing with children in first five years

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Over those first five years, 165 hours is spent on painting, drawing, and creative activities, and another 185 hours are taken up with reading together.

And more than 187 hours are spent on imaginative play – an average of nearly 44 minutes each week, the longest time out of all the activities.

It also emerged two-thirds (67 percent) of parents feel regular play sessions are “vital” for their child’s development, with 69 percent citing it as important for their child’s health and happiness.

And over half (53 percent) actively encourage their children to play, because they believe it helps them “connect to the world around them”.

Four in ten even believe it can have a direct impact on their child’s future success.

The research was carried out to launch a new play programme from Fisher-Price and Family Action, which aims to help parents and caregivers get the most out of play with their children by turning a session into a positive and valuable learning experience.

It also emerged almost more than two-thirds (68 percent) see play sessions as a way to help their children express their emotions, as well as benefiting their communication skills.

And 64 percent reckon it helps them work towards reaching their key developmental milestones.

Lisa Lohiser, early childhood development expert at the Fisher-Price Play Lab, said: “The research has shown there is certainly the appetite there to help their children develop skills through play.

“There’s no right or wrong way to play – if you’re present and engaged with your child, you can’t go wrong.

“It’s a natural way to develop skills like problem solving, creativity, language, and overall understanding of the world.”

The study also found one in ten parents never seek out new information on the benefits of play, as they might for other things related to their child’s wellbeing – such as what foods they should be eating at what age, or information around vaccinations.

And 56 percent said they tend to let their children lead play sessions, according to the OnePoll figures.

But 53 percent sometimes struggle or find it hard to play – with the biggest barriers including being time-poor, tired, or lacking energy or creativity.

And nearly one in ten (eight percent) feel too self-conscious or awkward, while 15 percent don’t believe they’re imaginative enough.

However, two-thirds of parents (65 percent) would welcome help from child development experts, including information and practical ideas about giving their child what they need to get the most out of play.

Karen Woodcock, Early Years Manager at Family Action, added: “You can’t underestimate the power of play.

“But that power is only unlocked when we don’t try to turn play into work, and instead recognise children’s instinctive curiosity and playfulness.”

The free Play Programme is available online from today, and includes five modules that tackle the “why” and “how” of play and its importance for Early Childhood Development.

It intends to help grown-ups understand the role they can play, and provides quick and simple tips and activities to do at home.

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