PLAYING does much more than just help kids let off steam, according to City of York Council, which has launched an initiative to get more youngsters enjoying themselves.

Alyson Christy, the council's play policy development worker, said that as well as being fun, playing helped confidence and promoted a child's sense of belonging.

She said: "Play is obviously great fun, but its benefits are often overlooked.

"Play is also an important part of every child's culture and quality of life.

"Through the development of play and spaces for children's voices we can promote a child's sense of belonging as well as increase their individual self-confidence."

The council has launched Taking Play Forward to raise the standards of the provision of play across the city.

The scheme also aims to recognise how important play is, find ways to fund and develop play opportunities and create flexibility in the use of play resources.

The hope is that organisations working with children will sign up to the policy to help youngsters experience a wide range of play activities and develop their sense of playfulness.

Alyson said: "Taking Play Forward is about creating a flexible approach to developing opportunities for play in many spaces and places.

"We are encouraging joint working with children, young people, parents and organisations involved directly or indirectly with children."

As part of the scheme the council is holding play sessions at the Barbican Centre tomorrow. The sessions will include parachute games, trampolining, giant Jenga, face art and den-making.

Children can attend one of three sessions on Thursday, from 10am to 11.50am, from noon to 1.30pm, and from 1.40pm to 3.10pm.

Chairman of the National Play Review, Frank Dobson, will also be there on the day.

For information, phone 01904 554380 to reserve a ticket for collection on the door.

Children under eight years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

Updated: 10:11 Wednesday, April 16, 2003