Big Day Out event highlights why play is important for children

Playtime the name of the game at child development forumChildren learn through play

Playtime – it might not sound as important as homework or chores but it is at the top of the list when it comes to child development.

The benefits of play were the focus for child health and education professionals when they met for the interagency event A Big Day Out on Wednesday 27 March.

Founded by West Moreton Health, Ipswich Hospital paediatrician Dr Ian Shellshear, it was the eighth time the activity had united teachers, principals, therapists, doctors and other child health experts to share their knowledge around behaviour and learning difficulties.

Dr Shellshear said the idea for the “get-together” was sparked by a growing number of paediatric referrals for children with learning or behavioural challenges.

He said the event was a growing success and an opportunity to merge the many services a child may encounter while receiving treatment.

“The best approach to caring for children experiencing developmental or behavioural challenges is a holistic one,” Dr Shellshear said.

“A united, multi-disciplinary team allows us to connect and share strategies for assessment and treatment and care for children closer to their homes and schools.”

He said stimulating play was crucial to a child’s development because it encouraged cognitive, social and learning skills, however a growing number of children were not playing enough.

“Children need to learn social skills early – they first must learn how to sit and listen, to engage with others and understand social settings.”

He said electronic games and disengaged parents were obstacles to meaningful play.

Dr Shellshear encouraged parents to switch off devices and spend time playing with their children indoors or outdoors.

Eighty-five attendees participated in the event at North Ipswich Reserve which is supported by the Ipswich Hospital Foundation, Ipswich City Council and the Darling Downs and West Moreton Primary Healthcare Network.

“The day was rated by attendees at 4.63/5, and some rated it as the best yet,” Dr Shellshear said.