Pathway Care, an independent fostering agency which cares for up to 500 children throughout England and Wales at any one time, says play is a natural way for children to learn about the world around them, express their thoughts and feelings, and to develop social skills and learn self control.
It has therefore launched its ‘Back to Basics Play Initiative’, which has been designed to get foster children away from their computers and games consoles, and outdoors into the countryside and parks.
Peter Harlock, Chief Executive of Pathway, said, “Many children especially those that come from deprived backgrounds and are unable to live with their birth family miss out on this vital part of their childhood, which is why we have started this important initiative.
“In the past we have organised various trips to a wide-range of top attractions, and although the foster children enjoyed these visits there wasn’t really the opportunity for them to play.
“The Back to Basics Play Initiative enables children to play without imposed constraints, they are free to express themselves without fear of disturbing or being judged by the public, and they are encouraged to use their imaginations,” he added.
Play has been found to help traumatised children to express their feelings so that they can better understand and deal with past experiences. It is a medium that allows children to reveal their inner thoughts, explore relationships, and tell others about their experiences and their wishes.
Diane Hinton, one of the Pathway Care outreach workers involved in the Back to Basics Play Initiative said, “It may sound extraordinary, but the reality is that many foster children don’t actually know how to play. They may be experts on computer games but when it comes to integrating with others they have no team working skills.
“Part of our Back to Basics Play Initiative involves activities that we all probably experienced as children – things like making mud pies, fruit picking, painting, even make-believe adventures in a field – activities that will make children play together and be creative,” she added.
Andrew (not his real name), aged 8, lives with foster carers in Cardiff. His birth parents didn’t play with him and his first experience of playing came via the Back to Basics Play Initiative.
Said Andrew, “It was really fun to play on the beach, build sand castles, and to skim pebbles in the sea. I’d never done anything like it before and it was really great.
“I also went blackberry picking. Until I went on the trip I didn’t know what a blackberry was or that they grew in bushes, but I ate loads that day,” he added.
“Children often have difficulty putting into words how they feel or how experiences have affected them,” explained Peter Harlock, ”Through a planned series of play activities and counselling sessions Pathway Care help traumatised children to better understand and deal with their past experiences.”
The Pathway Care Back to Basics Play Initiative will initially be rolled out in South East Wales.
Founded in 1996, Pathway Care is an independent foster care agency (IFA) working with Welsh and English local authorities to provide placement choice and stability for around 500 children and young people at any one time. For more information about fostering please visit the Pathway Care website at: www.pathwaycare.com or contact tel: 02920 811 173.