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Highland Life / News / Highland Council News / Council and NHS celebrate play@home

Council and NHS celebrate play@home

Issued: 20 Aug 2007

Celebrations are taking place around Highland next week to mark the 5th anniversary of The Highland Council and NHS Highland's play@home programme, which promotes active play for very young children.

The main event will be a free 'stay & play' session for parents and 0-3 year olds, at Inshes Church on Tuesday 28th August, 10.00am-12.00pm, featuring games and stories.

Since the programme began in August 2002, funded by NHS Highland and Highland Council, around 10,000 Highland tots and their families have been offered booklets full of ideas for fun games to play. Research shows that time to play in the first few years are crucial to children's development, laying the foundation for their later social, emotional and intellectual growth.

Programme co-ordinator, Julia Nelson says: "The simplest games, from knee rides to playing ball, are very valuable. They encourage good co-ordination and balance and just as importantly, involve communication and early language skills.

"It may seem the most obvious thing in the world, but parents these days are often very busy, with less time than before to play with their children. play@home is like a recipe book, where you can dip in and find easy ideas. And you don't need expensive educational toys ~ everyone can play, with a little encouragement.

"Children who experience that activity can be fun are more likely to want to carry on into other games and sports later on. This is important when we are trying to tackle rising levels of childhood weight problems."

play@home has received enthusiastic support from health visitors, therapists, childcare staff and librarians, all of whom have recognised its benefits for children and families.

"We often hear from families who have visited Highland friends, contacting us to ask where they can get the play@home books ~ they admire our resource!", said Julia.

The programme includes advice on infant massage and over 100 health and family support staff have now been trained in massage instruction for parents. A recent survey of professionals showed that they view infant massage as an effective practical way of helping parents and babies to bond well.

An independent evaluation by the University of Strathclyde, concluded that one of the 'critical success factors' of play@home is that it recognises parents as the prime educators of their children and helps them in that role.

Families are given the Baby book by their Health Visitor, a Toddler Book is sent by post and the Pre-school Book when their child starts pre-school education sessions.

As well as the play@home booklets, a CD of Gaelic songs and rhymes has been produced, sung by children from Acharacle Primary School. Some Gaelic material is available and a complete Gaelic version of the Toddler Book is planned. "We are grateful to other supporters, including Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Bord na Gaidhlig, for their support," said Julia. "We are also exploring ways of making the play@home ideas accessible in Polish and other languages."

Other birthday celebrations include play sessions run by Dingwall Children's Nursery at the town's street festival on September 1st, and at groups in Balintore and Fort William. For details, please contact Julia Nelson, Early Years Health Development Officer, NHS Highland, tel. 01463 711176.

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme