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February 7, 2013

University of Lethbridge Ready to Host Thousands of Kids at Second Annual Play Day

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Play a serious research topic – and is critical in a child’s development.

The University of Lethbridge, together with 1st Choice Savings and Credit Union, is once again taking the opportunity to help the community engage in play.

After an enormously successful inaugural event, which drew thousands of children and parents, the U of L is readying to host its second annual - and free - Play Day event on Family Day (Monday, February 18). 

The circus-themed event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sport and Wellness and the Max Bell Regional Aquatic Centre. 

U of L President Dr. Mike Mahon has focused a significant portion of his research career looking at the important contribution that “play” has on child development. He introduced Play Day at the University to promote the positive aspects of play and its influence on creating healthy individuals and healthy communities.

“Play Day is designed to reach out to the community, but on another level it’s trying to communicate about the value of play for families,” says Mahon. “The concept is really focused on families, not just on children – we are encouraging families to come and play together.”
“There’s a lot of research around the benefits of parents and children engaging in different forms of play - the family bonds are strengthened and the social, emotional development of children within the context of the family is greatly enhanced.”
Last year, a massive cardboard construction zone was a hit with kids of all ages, and will be back this year, with even more space (and cardboard) to play with.
“It was so much fun to see parents and young kids playing together,” says Mahon. “They were cutting shapes and playing make believe and the parents were playing as much as the kids were, and that was really cool to watch. That’s the real sprit of Play Day and if we as a university can contribute to families by encouraging play, then we’re doing a good thing.”
Mahon also says that play has wonderful educational value.
“We also know that play is a tremendous opportunity for children to learn. Some of the earliest theories around cognitive development look at how play contributes to this,” says Mahon.
There are many researchers at the University of Lethbridge who study play and play behaviour who want to change the notion that play is not productive.
While Mahon’s approach to play research has focused on sports, physical activity and the concept of play among youth in developing countries, he says U of L expert researchers such as Dr. Sergio Pellis (Neuroscience, Institute for Child and Youth Studies), Dr. Robbin Gibb (Neuroscience) and Dr. Claudia Gonzalez (Neuroscience and Kinesiology) have significantly contributed to the body of knowledge about play behaviour in a wide variety of ways.

Click here to read the original news release.

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