PARENTS spend 1,300 hours – the equivalent of more than 54 full days – playing with their kids during their first five years, with 95 hours spent playing peek-a-boo and another 100 on hide-and-seek.
A study of 1,000 parents with kids aged up to five found they spend an average of just under 45 minutes a day playing with their child – a total of 260 hours each year.
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.
While more than 187 hours are spent on imaginative play – an average of nearly 44 minutes each week.
It also emerged 67 per cent of parents feel regular play sessions are ‘vital’ for their child’s development, with 69 per cent citing it as important for their child’s health and happiness.
While 53 per cent actively encourage their children to play because they believe it helps them “connect to the world around them”.
And four in 10 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 seven in 10 (68 per cent) see play sessions as a way to help their children express their emotions as well as benefiting their communication skills.
And 64 per cent reckon it helps them work towards reaching their key developmental milestones.
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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 as 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 10 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 per cent said they tend to let their children lead play sessions, according to the OnePoll figures.
But 53 per cent sometimes struggle or find it hard to play, with being time poor, tired or lacking energy or creativity as the biggest barriers.
And nearly a tenth (eight per cent) feel too self-conscious or awkward, and 15 per cent don’t believe they’re imaginative enough.
However, 65 per cent 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.
The first five years of play
PEEKABOO – 22 MINS WEEKLY – 19 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 95 HOURS
HIDE AND SEEK – 23.5 MINS WEEKLY – 20 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 100 HOURS
PLAYING DRESS UP – 26.5 MINS WEEKLY – 22.5 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 112.5 HOURS
PAINTING/DRAWING/CREATIVE– 38 MINS WEEKLY – 33 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 165 HOURS
READING TOGETHER – 42.5 MINS WEEKLY – 37 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 185 HOURS
IMAGINATIVE PLAY – 43.5 MINS WEEKLY – 37.5 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 187.5 HOURS
NURSERY RHYMES – 39 MINS WEEKLY – 34 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS – 170 HOURS
DANCING – 35.5 MINS WEEKLY 30.5 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 152.5 HOURS
EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES – 42.5 MINS WEEKLY – 36.5 HOURS ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 182.5 HOURS
TOTAL 308 MINS WEEKLY – 260 ANNUAL – 5 YEARS = 1,300 HOURS