As the temperature reached 31°c in Hong Kong last month, I had the pleasure of taking part in a Family Play Day, put together by my colleagues to celebrate the International Day of Families. My own enjoyment wasn’t comparable to the excitement of the parents, who observed how much their children were absorbed in play. The children were all busy, actively engaging or focusing seriously; each creating their own places and own purposes for play. It was great not only to watch children playing, but also to hear the feedback from the parents.
- ’Play! Exploration, Experimentation, Negotiation and Laugher’ - Kathy Wong
The highlight of the Family Play Day was definitely the chance to play with ice cubes of all sizes. The ice play area was packed with children, and we had to extend the area to follow their flow and choice. Children were excited to see so many ice cubes together. They touched, held, felt, moved, pushed, built with, broke and mixed them with other materials to play. There was exploration, experimentation, negotiation, and laughter. "I never thought that ice could be a good play thing for my son..." a parent said to me. She was impressed, and I was touched.
- Family Play Day 2017 - Hong Kong
It was the magic of loose parts! The team had gathered different play materials that can easily be found in a home setting for the Play Day. We hoped to create awareness and convince the parents that play isn’t about expensive or mega play equipment. Loose parts can be anything: balls of different sizes, cloth of different colours, tissue rolls, wooden and plastic clothes pegs, net baskets, plastic bottle caps, cardboard boxes, and ice cubes of various sizes, etc. We introduced the loose parts and children created their ways to play.
"I never thought ice can be a play thing for my son. Look how he enjoys playing!"
"Oh, I will certainly try it again at home, thanks"
As the organizer, we were equally keen to urge the parents to enjoy play with children. The Family Play Day was, in fact, a practical opportunity for parents. We challenged them to learn to observe, respect their children’s choice, appreciate and engage in their children’s way of play, instead of leading the play. In short, we encouraged parents to step back and withhold their agenda, to unlearn the adult perspective and appreciate the child perspective in play. Play can be very simple, direct and fun to children.
- Family Play Day 2017 - Hong Kong
We found the Family Play Day was the best way to celebrate the International Day of Families, which takes place on 15 May every year. The Theme of 2017 was “Families, education and well-being.” No better way to achieve this unique combination through play as both parents and children need to have fun, relax from the pressures of their over-scheduled daily routines, and hopefully contemplate about the meaning of a happy childhood.
I was excited to hear the parent say:
"Oh... I will certainly try at home again, thanks." It is exactly what we wished to hear. We now hope that parents will better understand and support play for children, not just on Play Day, but every day.
Kathy Wong has been the Executive Director of Playright Children’s Play Association (Playright) since 1996. Playright is an NGO advocating child’s right to play. Under her leadership, Playright has created play opportunities, empowered the adults and cultivated a play-accepting culture in Hong Kong. She is now a Board member of the International Play Association – promoting the child’s right to play. Locally, she is the advisor (Professional) of the Center for Childhood Research and Innovation of the Education University of Hong Kong, the Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Capacity Enhancement Program of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.