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Time has been short recently. The Play Report has pre-occupied me for the last few months, together with another major study, children and their use of digital media. Ironic that both studies have involved children and their use of spare time, and both have left us at the agency with little time to spare. But we’ve also been left with a huge sense of satisfaction from working on such interesting studies with such inspired colleagues. The Play Report was commissioned by IKEA, where we have been working with a great team in Sweden. And The Digital Media study has been informed and helped by Marc Goodchild, Head of Children’s Interactive at the BBC, and Andrew Harrison, CEO Europe of Bestbuy and The Carphone Warehouse.

The Play Report is, we believe, the largest study ever done on play. 8,000 interviews with parents, and 3,000 interviews with children across 25 countries in 19 languages. Interviews were carried out on-line by our colleagues at Research Now who did an excellent job, as did my co-author Richard Somerville who did the analysis. The brainchild of IKEA, the Play Report looks at all aspects of children’s spare time, and perhaps more importantly explores what play actually means. IKEA has been innovative and imaginative in the way in which it has used the research, and has set up a Facebook site to explore ideas about play, as well as launching an Apple app.

We discovered some interesting findings. There is often great concern voiced about the amount of time children spend in front of screens, and as our other major study – Children and their use of Digital Media – has shown, this might be misleading. Playing with friends (30%) is the single favourite pastime of children interviewed for the Play Report, followed at a significantly lower level by playing with computer games (15%), and playing with mum and dad (10%). Over half of the children interviewed (53%) feel they are very good at making friends.

This last finding is immensely important. The Play Report shows that 9 out of 10 children said they would prefer to play with friends over watching TV – this is reassuring – playing with friends is an important part of child development – it allows them to develop social skills and interpret emotion in others, so playing is vital to child development. I believe that parents instinctively know how important it is for their children to have friends, and they also know how much easier it is if there are friends around to play so they can help to entertain each other! Children naturally gravitate towards each other – and this can be witnessed when families go on holiday and children begin very quickly to play together – even though they don’t know each other or even speak the same language.

I was also particularly struck by the way in which parents find out information. We asked parents who they trusted the most for information and advice on parenting, and it was interesting that parents rely on their own parents, ie the children’s grandparents most for information and advice (55%), this was followed by friends (50%), and then books and magazines (48%). Websites and blogs accounted for 38% – I would have expected that to be higher, and it is rather reassuring that despite the wealth of information available, good old fashioned advice from their own mum, or dad, is the most trusted.

Details of the Play Report can be found at

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