Every day’s playday - but isn’t it time we told others?

PlayDay mum Theresa Mayman with George, five, and Jacob, five months old - Theresa feels so strongly about children enjoying play she stepped in with friend Julie Vale to take over a playgroup at Highfield community centre
PlayDay mum Theresa Mayman with George, five, and Jacob, five months old - Theresa feels so strongly about children enjoying play she stepped in with friend Julie Vale to take over a playgroup at Highfield community centre
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National Playday came and went virtually unremarked upon the Fylde coast. Blink and you would have missed it in Blackpool.

Not that there was any shortage of play. Thousands of families were here to have fun in and around the resort.

In Wyre parents and children were out in force too - enjoying plenty of free fun.

But did any of it appear on the national Playday register?

No. When it comes to the kind of play that doesn’t involve paying our way we prefer to keep it to ourselves.

At the last check just ONE local event was listed on the national Playday website for our patch of the North West.

And that was a bug making workshop at the RSPB-run Ribble Discovery Centre at Fairhaven Lake. Small wonder it was so busy. Scores of kids through the doors within minutes of it opening.

Even visitor coordinator Julie Vale was uncertain how it came to find itself in such elevated company as Stoneacre Beach parachutes - and flash bang science at Burnley’s Scott Park.

“I think the RSPB must be on the data base for the event,” said Julie.

So just what is Playday and why should we be shouting about what we offer - for free - here?

It’s the national day for play in the UK. As well as an annual celebration of children’s right to play, Playday (www.playday.org.uk) is a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives.

It’s coordinated by Play England (and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and is promoted by leading children’s charity NCB (National Children’s Bureau).

So kids from the region joined over 850,000 others to celebrate Playday through community events.

Playday’s research reveals more than 50 per cent of grown ups remember playing out at least seven times a week when they were growing up.

Today it’s less than a quarter of children - 23 per cent.

And computers are not necessarily the problem - for 40 per cent of children say they want to play out more.

And having finally got the sort of weather adults remember from summers of old - when they were called summer and not a heatwave - there’s never been a better time to play.

Ask Abigail and Christian Thornley, 10 and seven, here on a day trip with mum Lisa and grandparents Sylvia and Les Sergeant from Rishton near Blackburn.

They headed for Fairhaven too - not for the bug workshop but the flatlands of the Fylde’s promenades.

Perfect for roller skating - declares Abigail, who not only looks the part, all kitted out and padded up for safety, but already finding her feet as a novice.

Just as her mum and grandmother have before.

Lisa used to enjoy ice skating too - Blackburn having as famed a rink as Blackpool’s Arena.

Yet another survey - this time by a toy company (Galt) suggests that parents simply don’t spend enough time playing with their children.

Some, especially mothers, called it “boring”, almost seeing it as a chore, while others said they had simply forgotten how to play.

Many relied on high tech toys, smartphones, tablets and DVDs to keep children occupied through the long summer holidays.

But not this family. Grandad Les says: “We’ve always believed in getting out and about, walking as a family, and having fun as a family. It pays off in happier healthier kids.”

Young Christian agrees. “I’d be bored staying in all the time. I’d rather play football.”

From St Annes to Lytham, south Fylde looked the definitive picture postcard resort on Playday.

A picture of health too - which, with the best will in the world, you can’t always say of all of our Blackpool visitors.

Just people on the pier, camped out in the dunes, flying kites on the beach, sunning themselves in the sunken gardens, playing tennis, bowling, promenading ... and making hotels for ladybirds.

I kid you not. That was all part of the fun at the one PlayDay event listed locally. Not only making and painting bugs from pebbles - butterflies, ladybirds (and the occasional frog was re-categorised as a bug too) - but making b&b’s for ladybirds too.

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home?

Not when ladybug hotels come with trappings created from children’s imaginations.

Six year old Sophie Pascucci has not only designed a blue eyed butterfly with little brother Ryan, four, and mum Judith, but created the Ladybird Hotel.

This comes complete with bamboo beds for ladybirds, duvets fashioned from leaves (so far very environmentally helpful) and thoughtful little extras such as mini beast tellies, toys and books.

Ladybird books naturally.

Sophie loves being active. She likes trampolines with her dad Pasquale “as he makes us go high” but mum Judith’s her favourite for “walks, parks and scooters.”

Francesca and Beatrix Connell, six and three, took part in the RSPB’s bug hunting blitz. They recorded some 57 species - with two more thrown in visitor coordinator Julie.

Their favourites were the meadow browns. tortoiseshells, Grayling butterflies. But Francesca had won the title Bug Hunter Extraordinary by dint of spotting a Burnet, a red and black day flying moth, often found in grasslands and dunelands.

Mum Hannah, 35, admits she preferred board games as a child. “Guess Who, Snakes and Ladders, Twister, those were my favourite games,” she recalls.

Josh Hothersall, 15, RSPB member and volunteer, is on hand to assist with the workshop.

He says: “I must have been the children’s age when I first started coming here. It’s a great place to learn. And it’s the sort of interest you take into adult life.”

Local childminder Irene Green, there with two little boys in her care, says it’s important children remember childhood as a time of play.

RSPB Playday event organiser Julie admits she was brought up as an active child.

“I was hardly ever in.

“Going mud dipping in wellies or mini beast hunting with the kids is my idea of heaven.”

There’s another mud dipping event for children coming up on Wednesday at the centre.

Julie assists not just with the discovery centre, the window on the bird world at Fairhaven overlooking crucial estuary habitat, but helps with a Blackpool playgroup too.

When cutbacks forced SureStart to shut up shop at Highfield community centre Julie and her friend Theresa Mayman agreed to continue running a playgroup there. “We have 20 families there who would otherwise miss out. It’s important for children to socialise early,” says Theresa.

She’s brought her own children, George, five, and Jacob, five months old, to her pal’s bug making workshop.

George takes a pebble and creates a hitherto unknown species of “superhero bug” - half frog, half butterfly.


Well, it worked for Spiderman...