3: Supporting children’s healthy socio-emotional development through play: Book of Beasties – the mental wellness card game

Play in its variety of forms is intrinsically fun, rousing positive emotions which affect children’s wellbeing and mental health. In fact, play is considered such an essential component of children’s healthy development that it is recognised by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as a right of every child (UN, 1989). Play has been broadly defined as any activity that displays features of non-literality, positive affect, flexibility and intrinsic motivation (Krasnor and Pepler, 1980). Simply put, it is enjoyable, voluntary and done for its own sake. The enormous physical, cognitive, social and psychological benefits of play for children from infancy to adolescence are well documented. A body of evidence indicates that incorporating a playful learning approach in the classroom is a highly effective pedagogical strategy for improving academic outcomes and increasing motivation (Weisberg et al, 2013). Moreover, pedagogies based on guided play (essentially child directed but incorporating adult-scaffolded learning objectives) have been shown to have a positive impact on socio-emotional development and emotional regulation (Ogan and Berk, 2009). Book of Beasties (BoB) – an award-winning school-based intervention which aims to develop children’s emotional literacy and support wellbeing – utilises a guided-learning approach through the medium of a traditional card game.1 Before this chapter explores BoB further, the concept of play and emerging modes of play for new digital natives (NDNs) will be briefly considered.

A radical shift in the nature of play has been linked with the exponential growth of digital technologies. Children growing up in digitally wealthy societies are exposed to technologies from an increasingly young age.

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