Thomas Land & The Benefits of Play

Our owner and MD, Gordon, is always looking for way to learn or help others and he was out and about again this week at Drayton Manor, the home of Thomas The Tank Engine. So what have Thomas and Safari MK got in common you may ask?
Well, Thomas Land is all about PLAY and LEARNING and that is exactly what Gordon was speaking to an audience of attraction owners all about: how vital PLAY is as part of learning. As PARENTS, and Gordon has 3 children aged 11, 9 and 6, we are not often taught how to become a ‘good parent’ and how best to bring up our children so that they will be successful and happy. There is a lot of advice but it can sometimes be incredibly confusing -  we need all the help we can get! A lot of it is trial and error, and Gordon is the first to admit that he has made a LOT of errors.

Yes, he has had two of his kids in meltdown in Tesco at the same time and wondering ‘what do I do from here’?!

Anyway, onto play… one big thing we should be aware of is that:
“time spent in free, imaginative play helps children develop a critical cognitive skill know as “executive function”, which is thought to be a better predictor of school success than a child’s IQ”  
- Chudacoff, Deborah Leong and Laura Berk
This could be playing together in the safety of an indoor play area or a park, the back garden on your lounge with a game. It depends on the age and development of the child.

But a mix is often good.

It shows whenever your kids are having fun playing, you are doing well with parenting! Sometimes this will be together but often even better if you are supervising from a distance.
Last week Gordon’s son was here at Safari MK and wanted to go on the Diddy Car Track under the football pitch. He is only 6 and was about to be a little bit more aggressive with another child than he should have been. Gordon spotted him and said ‘THINK and be kind, you will get a lot further’. He went off elsewhere to play. Later though, he saw him back again and this time he was in negotiation with another child about how much time each of them could have playing on the Diddy Car Track, and what the best way to measure this was, so they could both have a go.  It worked well; he shared with a child he had never met before. This is LEARNING THROUGH PLAY. Sometimes guidance is needed, sometimes they have to work it out for themselves.  
Adrian Voce who has done a lot of research into successful child learning states the quote below.  In essence as parents we have to be careful to allow our kids to just ‘play’ with no structure. With so many classes available these days it is easy to get caught up always feeling the only way our child will learn quickly is if they go to a class. There are certainly benefits of classes but free play needs to form part of their everyday learning.
"The concept of 'adult led' play and 'play-based' learning towards specific goals and targets, can be seen as flawed concepts. Whatever children may learn and however they may develop through their play, largely happens precisely because there are no targets, goals or expectations, other than the ones they may invent for themselves.”
- Adrian Voce OBE

We hope this helps you understand a little more about the importance of play. We have just finished improving the role play rooms here at Safari MK, so don't forget to try them out the next time you come in! Maybe your child could be the next Fire Chief!
To play and fun,
Gordon and all the team at Safari MK

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