Making Memories… Giving Hope

The Importance of Free Play


Children and young people referred to CHICKS for a respite break come from many different, but often difficult or desperate, backgrounds. They might be young carers with caring responsibilities for a parent, they might have suffered from abuse or neglect or they might be living in poverty and in a family experiencing housing issues. 

CHICKS respite breaks are child-led and balanced, and include a range of adventurous, relaxing, creative and imaginative activities. Children are offered challenges within an encouraging and supportive environment, but are always given choice.

Every break is unique and varies depending on the age of the children, their interests and energy levels. Activities may include: horse riding; bush craft; toasting marshmallows over the campfire; rock climbing; team games; body boarding or surfing; baking; nature crafts; face painting; walks in the woods, countryside or beach; water sports like kayaking and canoeing; and swimming. We aim to show children the value of free activities, and things they can do or play when they return home.

There is plenty of time for ‘free play’, where the children can choose what they would like to do and can make the most of the facilities we have onsite (e.g. sports barns, arts and crafts materials, trampolines and open fields).

One referrer said recently: “I think it was an amazing way for the children to escape the struggles of their day to day lives. They grow in confidence and evidently have a brilliant time. I think this break really helps them with their social skills and they love it.” 

Richard Whitehouse, Head of Respite Breaks explains: “The main aim we have for the children who come on CHICKS respite breaks, is that they have a positive, happy experience. To enable this, our respite break leaders plan each break to incorporate four elements - adventure, creativity, imagination and relaxation – primarily supported through play.

“Research shows that play offers children many valuable benefits, including the development of physical, emotional, creative and social/life skills and as well as the typically physical activities such as surfing, climbing or horse-riding, our play also includes more gentle, creative activities that encourage children to find focused, quiet, relaxed time too – we might think of it as ‘me time’ or mindfulness.

“Through play we see how children on break benefit by building self-confidence and self-esteem; using creativity to solve problems; finding new skills to help resolve conflict; developing social skills with other children; learning to take safe risks and face new challenges; using imaginative play to help manage and express their emotions and feelings and learning how to manage complex social situations.”

Our friends at We The Parents have written a fantastic post about the importance and benefits of free play - have a read here!

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