Hot topic: Why are Danish children the happiest in the world? It’s largely to do with play

February 28, 2017

Written in partnership with Fisher-Price

In December I read the book The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joele Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl, which gives insight into how the Danes parent and live, and how these go a long way into explaining why Denmark is the world's happiest country (it's been ranked happiest in the world by the Organization For Economic Cooperation And Development for nearly three decades running).

It's a good parenting resource, and gives some ideas and inspiration on how to raise happier and better adjusted kids. The book breaks it down into a six-word acronym from the word "parent". These are play, authenticity, reframing, empathy, no ultimatums, and togetherness.

It seems like the concept of play is a buzzword or big concept this year (and hopefully onwards). It's something I've tried to encourage as much as possible with my son though I admit that I don't often get it right – sometimes there's not enough of a balance between tech and outdoor play, and sometimes I'm not involved at all, not necessarily in the "helicopter" way, but in the "I'm too busy to even look at you playing and checking what you're doing".

According to Fisher-Price, who have a campaign called #PlayMore, when kids are playing, they’re growing, they’re learning, and they’re building a foundation for life. 

Child-led play – when kids are active and engaged with their toys and free to build new worlds, dream up stories, invent characters, and set off on epic adventures – is the best possible start, they say. Their toys are built to play more and in the hands of the kids we make them for, the possibilities are endless. In the hands of a child, these toys can be anything, and can help that kid become anything.

in addition to the learning, research also shows that free play, alone or with friends, teaches kids to be less anxious and more resilient, and it improves their social skills. It also makes children feel like they are in control of their lives, which leads to greater autonomy and self-control as they grow up.

It's fascinating that Danes put such a high value on play that early primary school curriculums are based around it.

Here are some suggestions to free up time for play, via Fisher-Price:

  • Limit screen time
  • Curtail time spent in adult-organised activities
  • Avoid over-scheduling
  • Make sure there’s ample free time in your child’s schedule for play

Tips to faciliate play:

  • Choose age-appropriate toys that encourage imaginative play
  • Encourage outdoor adventures and activities for physical and explorative play
  • Provide props and dress-up items to encourage role-play
  • Keep paper, crayons and simple art materials handy for creative play

On the subject of #FreePlay, Fisher-Price asked me to choose one of my favourite toys, and it's pretty difficult to choose my favourite "child", but I love the Rock-a-Stack (R169.99).

This toy is a classic starter toy, and when my son was a baby, he had an earlier version of this toy. He used to hold and stack the rings, and then when he was older he used to throw the rings on the stack to see how many he could get on.

The littlest ring has a shiny, reflective surface for baby to discover inside, with swirling beads that make fun rattle sounds! When they're ready to sit and stack, babies can place the rings on the post, then bat at the wobbly base to make it rock back and forth. Stacking helps them develop hand-eye coordination and introduces them to the concept of relative size as they learn to sort and stack from biggest to smallest.

Visit the Fisher-Price website and like the Facebook page to keep up to date with the latest news and products from Fisher-Price.

Feature image: Shutterstock

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  • lameez

    Interesting topic, learn a lot thank you.

    March 1, 2017 at 6:27 am Reply
  • Mrs FF

    Very educative article and lots of essential tips.

    These say it all:
    Limit screen time; Curtail time spent in adult-organised activities, Avoid over-scheduling and Make sure there’s ample free time in your child’s schedule for play. Many of us are guilty of over scheduling so much so that the play becomes hectic. I am learning to reduce our weekend activities so the child can just be a child

    March 9, 2017 at 9:53 am Reply
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