Parents & Carers

The importance of play for children's health and wellbeing


Today marks the 75th anniversary of the World Health Organisation's World Health Day, and they are using this landmark as “an opportunity to look back at public health successes that have improved quality of life during the last seven decades. It is also an opportunity to motivate action to tackle the health challenges of today”

50 Things To Do is ideally placed to tackle many health challenges and improve the health and development of children because it was specifically designed to help every child reach important health, learning, and wellbeing milestones by providing 50 low or no cost ideas for play. We passionately believe that by having play at the core of our program development we are positively impacting children’s physical and mental health.

In 2019, WHO published guidelines for Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep for Children under 5, launched with an article entitled “To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more” where Dr Fiona Bull, WHO, comments that “Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life” 

Playing supports positive physical developmental milestones by:

  • Improving fine and gross motor skills
  • Building strong muscles
  • Improving bone density
  • Increasing cardio-vascular function
  • Developing greater balance

Plus, it helps children use up their natural stores of energy! This then promotes better eating and sleeping habits.

As our Theory of Change reflects “Whichever way we look at it, scientific and pedagogical research consistently demonstrates that play and playfulness has a positive impact on holistic development.” Sadly, there is much research available to show that a decline in children’s play is leading to increased obesity, depression and anxiety. On a positive note, Research has shown that the inherent joy and affective nature of play, as well as the stimulation of multiple brain networks during play, make it particularly effective in maintaining and developing the emotional skills needed to deal with challenging circumstances, as well as the resilience and creativity to adapt. Playfulness is often associated with being happy, imaginative, light-hearted and free and there is a consensus among childhood experts that playfulness is a positive trait that leads to a sense of happiness and joy.

50 Things to Do is available for anyone to use in the United Kingdom, but if you live in one of the areas with a localised 50 Things offer, you will see that activities refer to places and spaces close to home. Many Local Authorities who invest in 50 Things for their local community use it as a public health engagement tool, being able to promote and deliver activities/events targeted at specific community needs. Furthermore, they can access data to show levels of engagement with activities from specific postcode areas. 

So, if you're inspired to take action this World Health Day and you want to know more about how 50 Things can help you tackle health challenges in your area, get in touch our team by emailing:


Written by Rebecca Oberg

Head of Partnerships, 50 Things to Do


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