March 20th, 2012
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Make Time 2 PlayPlay sessions get kids more active than at any other time of the school day according to new report Children are more active when given time to play than at any other time in school, including break- times, lunch-times and some school PE lessons, new research by the British Toy & Hobby Association and the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University has found.

In the study of primary school aged children, they were found to be moderately or vigorously active for almost twice as long when given toys and cardboard boxes to play with than in the school PE lessons that were monitored. Children were found to be active for two thirds of the time in the play sessions, compared to just 38% in their sports lessons and more so whilst playing than at any other time.

The research studied children in play sessions, with a variety of toys including space hoppers, hula hoops and dance mats or with cardboard boxes in both indoor and outdoor scenarios and during school activities such as break-times and PE Lessons. They were observed in 30 minute play sessions across four days, using accelerometers to measure their activity levels and heart rates.

The research took into consideration government guidelines on the minimum amount of physical activity children should have a day, which states primary school children should have at least an hour a day.

Natasha Crookes, from the British Toy & Hobby Association said, “Most parents understand that play is important for their children’s emotional development, but what this research highlights is the time spent with props, whether it is cardboard boxes or toys, is an easier and more enjoyable way for children to be physically active and meet the minimum guidelines of activity.”

Furthermore, the results demonstrated that boys are slightly more actively engaged in play than girls – playing actively for 20minutes in a session, versus 17 minutes for girls. Typically girls are less likely to be active than boys with studies showing that as little as 34% of girls aged 4-10 have an hour of vigorous physical activity per day compared to 51% of boys of the same age. This latest study highlights the substantial contribution that active play can have at getting girls to reach daily activity levels.

The research also revealed that when provided with outdoor space, both boys and girls spent more time engaged in physical activity in comparison to being indoors. However, the results also showed that children engaged in more activity of a moderate-vigorous intensity indoors with toys, in comparison to when they took part in a PE lesson, highlighting that parents who are unable to provide an outdoor space can still encourage their children to engage in energetic active play indoors.

In a second element to the study conducted by the British Toy and Hobby Association, 2,000 British parents were surveyed on their views on the physical activity their children have. Whilst over a quarter of parents admit that their children get just 30 minutes or less of physical activity a day (including at home and school), over a third of parents agree with the government guidelines and believe their children should have an hour or more of physical activity a day.

Natasha Crookes added, “Whilst we see the importance school activities and PE lessons have, it is interesting to note that parents should not rely on these sessions alone for children to get a daily amount of physical activity – play is not only fun and sociable but an ideal way for kids to be active.”

As well as positive physical effects, the study also reinforced how important play is on children’s creativity levels and imagination. Knowing how to encourage their children to play is a parenting skill that 1 in 5 dads and nearly 1 in 6 mums would like to improve on. In response to the research, the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) are promoting their ‘Make time to play’ campaign, with celebrity mum Kym Marsh, to encourage parents to get their children engaged in ‘active play for an hour a day’ to ensure they reach the governments minimum requirement on physical activity.

Through a dedicated Facebook fan page at and FREE downloadable app called Make Time to Play parents can receive and share ideas on how to get their children to have an hour of active play a day.



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