How play affects mental health in Primary School

In this section I will discuss how play affects mental health on children in Primary School. I will include the positives and negatives of play, as well as my opinions and experiences with play on mental health. According to Collins dictionary play is “when children, animals, or perhaps adults play, they spend time doing enjoyable things, such as using toys and taking part in games.”  Play can take place anywhere at school, home or outside for example a park.

Play can both positively and negatively affect a mental health. “Play, directed towards intrinsic rather than extrinsic goals allows a freedom to explore independently and as such, results in children: solving their own problems, controlling their own lives, developing their interests, becoming competent in pursuit of their own interests.”(Kitcamp, 2018) This means that children learn beneficially when they are given the opportunity to play their own games that do not always play games that have pre-set goals from adults, this is because children are able to freely choose who and what they want to play with which can allow them to develop their interests and build their self-esteem. Other benefits are that “play can foster effective communication, helps develop social skills, develops cognitive, critical thinking and motor skills, creates confidence in children and inspires creativity.” (Chaschool, 2018)  This is because children that play together can socialise and communicate with each other, they are able to problem solve which increases cognitive development and critical thinking which can all positively impact a child’s confidence. However, some negatives of play are violent behaviour, and some children may be excluded from play which could cause mental health issues. Another issue is play deprovision due to online video games and watching television which can greatly impact a child’s mental health, this “include[s] isolation, depression, reduced self-control and poor resilience” (playscotland, 2018). Children that view violent behaviour from parents, siblings, or other people they look up to often copy and show violent behaviours, this is outlined in banduras experiment with a bobo doll. The experiment looked at how children reacted to the bobo doll after seeing an adult either hit the bobo doll or play with it nicely, bandura found that “those participants who watched the film of a person being aggressive were more likely to behave violently towards the toy than participants in a control group.”(Psychologistworld, 2021) This shows that young children that are exposed to violent behaviour from adults around them or even television shows or video games are more likely to subsequently show more aggressive behaviour, this is known as observation learning. This could impact on a child as it allows them to think that violence is allowed. However, if a child is exposed to violent behaviour at home, they may become withdrawn, anxious and/or depressed.

Another issue with play is that “Since about 1995 children’s free play has been continually declining, at least partly because adults have exerted ever-increasing control over children’s activities”. Free play is “play a child undertakes him or her-self and which is self-directed and an end in itself, rather than part of some organised activity”. Free play can be hard in schools as lessons are prepared in advance and are not typically made to allow a child to play, instead they are designed to help a child learn a specific topic. Children are given play opportunities during break times and lunch times but are they long enough? According to the BBC (2020) “breaks have been getting shorter over the past two decades, as teachers try to pack more lessons into the day or end the school day earlier.” The BBC (2020) also said, “Primary schools in England had 45 minutes less break time than in 1995”. This is significant as it means that children are having less time and opportunities to play with other children and learn from each other, but it also means that children have less time being active as the BBC (2020) also reports “That eight out of 10 children now do less than one hour of physical activity per day.” Which is important for a children’s health and wellbeing, as it can improve a child’s self-esteem.

In conclusion play can be both positive and negative on a child’s mental health, if play in primary school is monitored effectively and all children are given equal opportunities and access to play it can be beneficial for their learning and development and mental health for example it gives children more opportunities to explore their interests and meet their communication and social skills as well as helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression and memory problems. However, if play is not monitored effectively and children are exposed to violent behaviour or are not given the opportunity to play alongside other children it can have a negative impact on their learning and development and mental health for example children are more likely to be aggressive and struggle with their communication and social skills as well as anxiety, depression and poor memory problems.

My opinion and experience on the issue

In my opinion children in primary schools should be given equal opportunities to play as they may not be able to do so outside of school, this will give them the opportunity to learn vital skills and develop their interests. I also believe that children in primary school should be aware of negative behaviours such as violent behaviour like hitting. This is important as it will prevent violent/negative behaviour from occurring within the playground. My experience as a child I was lucky enough to have been given plenty of opportunities to play alongside other children and my cousins, I remember playing hide and seek and tig with my peers in primary school, going to east park with my cousins and playing in the park. I used to play out on the street with other children that lived across the road, which helped me learn to look before crossing the road.


Collinsdictionary (2021), Definition of ‘play’, Available at: (Accessed on: 29/11/2021)

Kitcamp (2018), The benefits of play on mental health, Available at:,Developing%20their%20own%20interests (Accessed on: 29/11/2021)

Playscotland (2018), Play Deprivation Can Damage Early Child Development, Available at: (Accessed on: 29/11/2021)

The Atlantic (2011), All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed, Available at: (Accessed on: 29/11/2021)

Psychologistworld (2021), Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment, Available at: (Accessed on: 29/11/2021)

BBC (2020), Michael Rason: should break times be longer?, Available at: (Accessed on: 29/11/2021)

Chaschool (2018), Top 5 Benefits of Learning Through Play, Available at: (Accessed on: 29/11/2021)

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