– Dr Jacqueline Harding reviewed over 100 different academic studies worldwide across neuroscience and behavioural psychology for Fisher-Price in the first academic literature review of its kind and has coined a new theory “Playful Triangulation” on the back of her findings

– Study pinpoints emerging evidence that playing with children can reduce stress levels, increase well-being, strengthen the immune system and boost mental stamina, including a surge in the feel-good chemical Oxytocin in the brain attained during meaningful play with little ones

– Dr Harding also shares her timely “Top Tips for Making the Most of Playtime During Lockdown,” developed as part of her report and released today to give support to parents during this period of lockdown

Fisher-Price, the leading infant pre-school brand, today publishes its new report looking at the positive effects that playing with children can have on parents, grandparents and other caregivers, which it has conducted in conjunction with Dr Jacqueline Harding (MA Cert Ed SFHEA), a senior lecturer at Middlesex University and an international expert in child development and neurophysiology.

For the report, titled “Playtime for Everyone,” Dr Harding conducted the first ever review of academic evidence on the possible impact of playful interactions between parents/carers and young children while engaged in object play, analysing over 100 different studies at the intersection of various academic fields.

Up to now, much has been documented on the benefits of play for children, but little is known on the positive effects for adults. The new report addresses this by pooling together several studies focused specifically on this area which have then been interpreted by Dr Harding through her new theory of “Playful Triangulation” (see technical notes below).

The evidence suggests playtime can help reduce stress levels, increase well-being, boost mental stamina and even strengthen the immune system. Laughter whilst playing with children, for example, can even equate to time spent at the gym. In one study referenced by Dr Harding in her report, doctors describe “mirthful laughter” as the equivalent of “internal jogging” because it can lower blood pressure, stress and boost the immune system much like moderate exercise.

One area Dr Harding focusses on in her report looks at how constant stress releases the corrosive hormone called cortisol in the brain, and how playing with children helps to counteract this by providing a clever antidote. And, what’s more, she says, it is cyclical: parents and carers who are being subjected to increased levels of stress during the Coronavirus crisis can help prevent the erosion of positive relationships with children through bursts of frequent harmonious play-driven interaction. This is particularly important during this crisis now that kids are unable to interact or play with other children.

Dr Harding says: “We know this is an incredibly stressful time for parents who are trying to juggle so much in an unprecedented situation. This report reveals that playtime can be an antidote to stress and have many positive benefits for adults as well as kids. Keep playing with your child in whichever way you enjoy most, because the benefits can last a lifetime and, it’s good for children and great for you. It’s a win – win.”

Originally set for release later this year as part of the Fisher-Price global campaign “Let’s Be Kids,” which invites grown-ups to grow-down and rediscover the joy of playtime, the decision was made to release the findings early to offer parents affected by the current COVID-19 situation, some comfort and scientific insights on the social, psychological and physical benefits they can gain through playing with their children.

Pauline de la Riviere, UK Marketing Director for Fisher Price, says: “This new research brings together all the positives that can be gained through play for all the family which is particularly relevant for the times we are living. Whatever time you can spare to play, in whichever way you choose to play, there are no rights or wrongs, we hope to support parents and inspire them to keep on playing knowing there are benefits for them and their children which will help during this difficult time.”

Furthermore, drawing on her findings, Dr Harding has also developed her “Top Tips for Making the Most of Playtime During Lockdown”. These are released today by Fisher-Price, giving parents scientifically sound suggestions for a positive playtime should they want to learn about the psychological attributes of play.