Pencils Down, It’s Time To Play…


Parents and Teachers Try New Tactics To Ready Gen Z For the Real World
Primary age children spend approximately 7 hours a day at school, a lengthy amount of time by European standards, and that’s before extracurricular commitments such as Breakfast Club and after school tuition are factored in. As a result, 92% of parents fundamentally believe teachers share the responsibility of nurturing a child’s emotional wellbeing.
Research* commissioned by Nintendo (which delved into parents’ attitudes around the challenges faced by children growing up in Britain today) reveals that 70% of parents worry that their youngsters are growing up too fast and may lack the ability to bounce back from adversity, partly due to the parents own nervousness at broaching issues.
The study revealed that 56% of parents feel ill-equipped to tackle subjects they are uncomfortable with, and even lie when faced with tricky questions. More than half of the 1000 parents questioned (58%) admitted they would feel more comfortable discussing maths homework with their children compared with tackling the complexities of a relationship breakdown or debating image worries - as they feel unsure of how to introduce such topics. 
In modern society, complex issues such as Brexit, cyber bullying and terrorism are unavoidable, and it can be daunting for parents to navigate these new minefields.
The Department of Education shares this belief and has recently tasked educators to help ensure children are properly supported**. Pioneering schools are now trialing innovative ways to engage children: from using play to explain complex situations to introducing 'happiness and wellbeing' classes, devised to nurture emotional resilience and boost self esteem.
An example is Chris McGivern, a Year 3 educator at Southgate Primary School in West Sussex. After researching what children like to do in their spare time, he discovered 75% of children aged between 6 and 10 regularly play videogames***. An advocate of play, he decided to find a way to bring this passion into his classroom and bridge the gap between traditional teaching methods and fun.
Mr McGivern’s classes feature characters children love, particularly popular faces from Nintendo’s kid-friendly videogames, like Mario as well as from children's popular TV shows like Peppa Pig. He uses situations and characters to facilitate discussion, reporting that classes are more motivated to debate different issues through this guise, from experiencing conflict to dealing with divorce and feeling lonely. By using playful tactics to explain difficult scenarios, he has found that children are instantly more able to talk things through calmly, question why something might have happened and then consider the solution. 
 The school has recently trialed Japanese phenomenon YO-KAI WATCH® as a stimulus to aid personal development lessons. Arriving in the UK earlier this year, YO-KAI WATCH®  is becoming a true playground craze and a firm favourite up and down the country, thanks to the Nintendo 3DS game, animated TV series on Cartoon Newtork and range of toys from Hasbro.  
For Mr. McGivern, YO-KAI WATCH®s appeal lay in its use of Japanese folklore, where the characters create a world that children can grasp.  Each character (Yo-kai) is based on a circumstance real children worry about, such as competing against a friend (a trait present in the Yo-kai ‘Blazion’), family arguments (personified through ‘Dismarelda’) or being the subject of gossip (shown via ‘Tattletell’).
He then applies the experiences present in the game to relate to a child’s real life.
Leading child development and play expert, Dr Amanda Gummer advocates the introduction of play to areas outside of the playground, thanks to its proven impact on cognitive development.
She comments by disguising a lesson in play, children have fun as well as learn. They relax and become more open to talking about what they think and how they feel. This trick can be a useful tool for parents and teachers as it’s easier to properly engage a child with a subject that might have been difficult to discuss, were it not for the playful distraction.’
Dr Gummer applauds this use of popular culture in a non-traditional environment and advises that parents who feel nervous about approaching difficult topics with children can easily apply playful tactics at home, helping to build on their child’s emotional resilience over the summer and enabling them to think more critically.
With classes set to break up this week, Dr. Gummer has created a set of tips designed to equip parents keen to apply the principles of play to their time together.
For Dr Gummer’s tips, please refer to supporting document for full details.
In addition to YO-KAI WATCH®, Nintendo also has an array of games available this summer that can help captivate and engage young minds through the Nintendo 3DS family systems. For more information on Nintendo’s kid-friendly games that can apply the principles of play, please visit the Nintendo website.

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