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Concerningly, 61 per cent of parents often find playing with their child to be challenging or monotonous, and a staggering 86 per cent struggle to carve out time for this crucial activity but with research proving the benefits of early years play-based programs, experts are urging families to focus on prioritising play skills. 

Belinda Agostino Chief Creative Director of Ready Set Dance commissioned a report from Early Childhood and Gifted Education Consultant, Dr Cathie Harrison on the benefits of play that led to the development of the Ready Set Move program for children aged 12 months to three years.

“The research shows that play, particularly in the very early years, contributes to brain development, creates flexibility, enhances creativity, builds resilience to stress and promotes social awareness and how to fit in with others,” Ms Agostino said. “Dr Harrison confirmed for us that more play-based activities were needed to help parents to prioritise play with their toddlers, re-learn the joys of play themselves and introduce their children to the developmental benefits.”

The results from the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCN) National Child Health Poll indicate she is right and that many parents have lost the skills of ‘play’ they had from their childhood and are not confident they can teach their own children how to play.

Ready Set Move meets the Early Learning Framework requirements for under three-year-olds and provides an easy way for parents to learn play techniques.

Ms Agostino said “We need to change the way we see play, as it is actually a highly intellectual engagement. What we are doing as parents when we play with our children is exposing them to new experiences and building resilience that they can draw on in difficult times.”

“We know families are not prioritising play, but it is necessary for a child’s development, especially for their brain growth. The good news is it does the same for adults, so getting involved with your child and playing with them more will impact your brain the same way. Basically, we get smarter the more we play.”

Ready Set Move has been rolled out nationally in over 100 locations around Australia

  1. Start with Joy: Kick off playtime with activities that you both enjoy. Whether it’s grooving to your child’s favourite tunes, diving into a world of make-believe, or experimenting with tactile sensory toys, the goal is to revel in the fun of the moment. Focus on the happiness of your interaction—your engagement is what your child will remember and cherish.
  2. Let Your Child Lead: Children are exploratory by nature, so take cues from them. Participate in whatever they are doing, whether that’s building a block tower or drawing. This not only empowers them by validating their choices but also turns playtime into a collaborative adventure that strengthens your bond.
  3. Weave Play into Your Routine: Make play a seamless part of your daily life. Incorporate games like “I Spy” on a drive, make silly faces while preparing breakfast, or have a mini dance party during cleanup time. Regular playful interactions can transform mundane routines into enjoyable experiences and foster a sense of security and attachment.
  4. Incorporate Structured Play: Sometimes, structured play activities, like a weekly class, can make it easier to ensure play is a consistent part of your schedule. Classes designed for parent-child participation can offer new ideas for play and interaction that you can bring home.
  5. Keep It Simple and Stress-Free: The essence of play lies in simplicity and spontaneity. Don’t worry about crafting the perfect play environment or achieving specific outcomes. The most beneficial play comes from simply being together and experiencing joy in the moment.

Case study Brent Pace – Father of Elle 2

Let me tell you, before becoming a dad, I expected I would find playing with my child fairly easy. I taught children as young as three how to dance, so I was going to be a natural and know how to engage and connect with kids. Right? Since Elle came into our world nearly 2 years ago, I’ve realised playing with a child and making quality time is not as easy as I’d anticipated.

I’ll admit, playing with a toddler wasn’t always my strong suit. Before, I’d find myself defaulting to putting on a TV show or reading a book—easy choices that didn’t require much from me, Ready Set Move changed that. It has taught me the value of active participation in Elle’s world of play. I also found a new kind of connection with her. It wasn’t just about watching her from the sidelines; I was right there with her, dancing, playing, and, most importantly, learning. It improved my moods and I started to think of ways to play with her at home more. It wasn’t long before I saw the changes in her, too. Her coordination, her ability to follow instructions, her confidence—all blossoming from something we did together once a week.

Key Facts:

  • One-third (36 per cent) of parents say they sometimes don’t know how to play with their child
  • 50 per cent are not confident that they could help their child to play
  • Almost two in three parents (61 per cent) often find playing with their child hard or boring
  • 86 per cent of parents say it is hard for them to find time to play with their children
  • 65 per cent of parents believe play was better when they were growing up
  • Most parents (94 per cent) recognise play is important for a child’s health, including physical wellbeing and brain development*