A new report from Disneyland Paris exposes the issues faced by parents and children during family playtime
• One in five parents (21%) in the UK admit to forgetting how to play with their children, blaming a lack of inspiration, confused messaging and a shortage of time
• Parents of today should consider a ‘back to basics’ approach to remember their own childhoods and the games they enjoyed when they were young, and look to these activities to connect with their own children
• A third of parents (30%) think playing with their children is boring and one in ten children (16%) actually pick up on this feeling during family playtime
• 55% of children want more quality fun time with their parents
• Today’s time-starved society is impacting the way we play with half of parents (50%) blaming work and chores as barriers to the amount of quality time they spend with their children
• Sibling rivalry is a cause of tension for family play with nearly a third (32%) of parents citing this as the biggest problem when they try and play with their children
Play is in danger of becoming a lost ‘art’ for families across the UK, as 21% of time-starved parents admit that they have forgotten how to play and struggle to engage their children in creative and imaginative activities that will help their development according to a new report commissioned by Disneyland Paris to coincide with the opening of Toy Story Playland – a new land of attractions and experiences in the theme park.
The ‘State of Play, Back to Basics’ report, authored by Professor Tanya Byron, takes into account the views of 2,000 parents and 2,000 children (aged 5-15) and examines the play habits of the nation. It is clear from the study that the games that the children of today enjoy are not too dissimilar to the pursuits enjoyed by their parents, and with this in mind, parents should adopt a ‘back to basics’ approach in order to re-connect with their children through play. This doesn’t mean drastic measures for small returns, rather they should remember the games they enjoyed playing as children such as action men, dressing up and let’s pretend, and introduce them to their own children to reignite their imagination and the fun they had playing these games when they were young.
The Importance of Environment to Play
Safety and security are unsurprisingly crucial to creating the right environment for play for parents in today’s society and proved the most important consideration for over half of adults (54%) questioned.
An environment where children could learn whilst playing was the second most important consideration for parents with 52% believing this to be vital when choosing an environment in which to play, followed closely behind by interactive (33%) and imaginative environments (18%). With this in mind, it is therefore unsurprising that theme parks such as Disneyland Paris which focus on story-telling and interactive engagement, were viewed as being ideal places for family play by over a quarter of parents (29%) as they provide a safe environment and add educational yet fun elements to play.
Enriching, colourful and imaginative environments are also key to providing an effective platform for play for almost three quarters (74%) of parents. This again reinforces why places such as Disneyland Paris are high up the list of locations for family play as they provide vibrant environments that inspire children to get creative whilst being safe, secure and educational. As a family destination, the park provides many opportunities for children and adults to play together in fantasy worlds which combine beloved characters, extraordinary experiences and magical encounters for millions of guests each year.
Bridging the Generation Gap by Going Back to Basics
A lack of communication between the generations as to what games and activities they should play together emerged as a key contributor to the problems faced at family playtime. The lack of understanding on how to engage children in exciting play that everyone will enjoy means it is not only children who are left feeling dispirited. Almost a third (30%) of parents admitted that they think playing with their children is boring, and over one in ten children (16%) picked up that they feel this way.
This communication breakdown is also highlighted in the differing views the generations have on technology. Nearly one in three parents (30%) choose to play computer games with their children thinking that’s what their kids will most enjoy. However, nine out of ten children (89%) said computer games were something they would rather play on their own while three quarters (75%) said they would prefer to spend time with their parents enjoying more traditional pursuits, such as challenging each other at board games or playing outdoors together.
Playtime Pressures – work, sibling rivalry and confusion take the fun out of playtime
Time starved parents are letting work pressures and everyday chores severely impact on the amount of quality time they spend with their children with 50% of parents admitting this was an issue. Nearly a third of children (30%) recognise work worries as being the reason that their parents are too busy to play with them showing that parents need try to put playtime first for their children’s sake.
The age old problem of sibling rivalry is also an issue that parents and children alike highlight as a cause of tension within the family group during playtime. A third of children (33%) felt rivalries with their brothers and sisters took the fun out of playtime, with girls feeling it more acutely than boys. Nearly a third (32%) of parents cited sibling rivalry as being the biggest problem they encounter when playing with their children as they struggle to know how best to deal with this.
A lack of clear advice and direction generally on how to engage children in effective play and deal with problems they encounter is a clear issue for parents. One in ten (10%) adults questioned admitted they felt so overwhelmed and confused by the conflicting information available that it actually prevents them from playing with their children.
Play is vital to a child’s development, improving the way they interact, communicate and develop key life skills. The ‘State of Play, Back to Basics’ report aims to help parents make play exactly what it should be for both generations: educational, inspirational and above all fun!
Professor Tanya Byron, author of the report said of the findings; “There are four key ingredients to a successful playtime between parents and children namely: education, inspiration, integration and communication. Parents need to take a step back and think back to how their own childhood games used these four pillars and how they can implement them now. The key thing is to have an open and honest dialogue between parents and children and to embrace play environments like Disneyland Paris which provide a great training ground for parents to practice the art of imaginative play by using objects and experiences that are recognisable whatever your age. Cross generational enjoyment, where no family member feels inhibited, under pressure, bored or stressed are key to making these four pillars become part of everyday play.”
Francois Banon, Vice President of Communications at Disneyland Paris said of the need for such a report; “Enhancing and inspiring the lives of people whatever their age is key to what we do every day. Our aim is that every person who visits the park is immersed and enriched by their experience. Toy Story Playland, our newest land, focuses on the popular Disney/ Pixar “Toy Story” films and puts the concept of ‘play’ at the heart of the experience.
“During the report, what became clear is that Disneyland Paris has the tools to help make playtime for families more enjoyable and enriching. Theme parks such as Disneyland Paris can offer a springboard for parents to learn and understand play and engage with their children in stimulating environments. As such we take our role as experts in play very seriously and everything we do, and aspire to do, is designed to help make play a rewarding experience for all.”