LEGO is encouraging more family playtime after their Play Well Report survey found kids around the world feel like they don’t have time to play — especially with their parents.
The company surveyed more than 13,000 parents and kids from nine different countries. Their findings show that on average, almost one in five kids say they don’t have time to play anymore. That trend is especially high in the US, coming in third behind China and Saudi Arabia.
And it’s not just kids — 32% of parents in those three countries, plus Russia, Denmark, Mexico, Germany, France, and the UK, admit they don’t have time to play with their kids either. And of all children surveyed, American children spend the most time on “solo and digital play per week” — that’s an average of seven hours alone, and six hours on a phone, computer, or tablet.
But no matter how many toys or high-tech gadgets a kid has, “free play” with loved ones is key for childhood development. That’s why the Play Well report says that more than ever, “playtime is under threat.”
LEGO’s nonprofit division, The LEGO Foundation, wants to help. It supports “learning through play,” and is using the Play Well report to encourage more family playtime.
Free play has a lot of benefits for social, emotional, and cognitive development — it can increase creativity and problem-solving ability, and teach kids how to regulate their emotions.
Loosely structured activities that require time and patience from parents can make a big impact on healthy childhood development. That could be a tea party with stuffed animals, throwing a ball outside, and, of course, building with LEGOs.
And it’s not just good for kids — LEGO also reported nine out of 10 parents say play is “fundamental to their own happiness,” making them feel more relaxed, energized, creative, and connected to their child. Play “is a positive and beneficial thing” for the whole family, LEGO vice president Sarah Bouchie told Fast Company.
“If you take the time to be present with your child in the moment when you’re grocery shopping, when you’re setting the table, when you’re tying shoes in the morning… [it’s a] perfect opportunity for you to use your imagination and help your child think about things in a different way,” Bouchie said. “There’s a sweet spot where if a caregiver is really paying attention to a child, then that parent can help respond to what [the child] wants to do.”
Studies at Harvard have shown how engaged game-playing can improve executive function or displays of creativity, rationality, and maturity among children who have experienced neglect.
“You don’t need fancy toys. You don’t need a ton of time,” Bouchie said. “You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to put in the effort and just a few minutes a day can make a big difference.”