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Doctors say Play is the Way

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Almost two years away from school for some children. No outdoor play, no socialising or learning from friends, and not much structured education. No wonder everyone is anxious about massive gaps in child development as the pandemic continues to disrupt children’s lives and learning.

Nowhere is this more acute than in the Philippines which not only has had one of the longest lockdowns but has also been plagued by natural disasters during the pandemic – the Taal volcano eruption in February 2020 and Typhoon Rai in December 2021.

According to the World Bank, the Philippines has a population of 110 million in a country of 7,500 islands. Children under 15 years old make up 30 percent of that population. That means over 32 million children in the Philippines have had their childhoods disrupted by the pandemic and exacerbated by natural disasters. This impacts on their social and emotional wellbeing as well as their academic learning and holistic development.

In 2015 the Philippines Statistics Authority reported that almost one-third of children were in poor families, adding poverty to the other challenges they face. Children are among the most vulnerable groups in the country.

The situation looks bleak, but all is not lost. According to two pioneering doctors based in the Philippines there is a wonderful, simple tool to support these children’s development: the power of play.

Dr Francis DiMalanta and Dr Melinda Best, both developmental paediatricians, are passionate advocates for how play can help fill gaps in social, emotional, cognitive and physical development.

They have been prescribing play to patients and encouraging parents to play with children more. Children instinctively know what they need to do to develop, and their natural capacity to play will help them if parents, teachers and clinicians can make opportunities more available.

Research suggests that when children play they learn faster and better. So take inspiration from these two doctors and let your children learn through play. It will make them healthier, happier, better learners and better friends.

In the words of Dr Francis DiMalanta “If the children play they will be OK”

Find out more about the Developmental Play model on

Connect with us to find out more about our community of practice in the Philippines.

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