“Play shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul”
Play is the main business of the lives of children.
It is the way that they learn and explore the world around them.
Play is what children do when their time is not being organised by adults.
Play is a vital process by which children develop their intellectual, physical, creative and social skills.
There are as many forms of play as there are children in the world; it can be active or inactive, solitary or group play, structured, but what is central to the whole process is that it is the child who sets the agenda in the play situation.
“Play is freely chosen, personally directed, intrinsically motivated behaviour that actively engages the child”
“Play does not involve the pursuit of any external goal or reward”
(Ref. Best Play, Children’s Play Council, NPFA, 2000)
Ireland’s Health Watchdog – on Safefood
Safefood, Ireland’s Health Watchdog, has launched the Bring Back Play Campaign to get more children playing outside again.
Currently 4 out of 5 children are not getting enough exercise of 60 minutes activity a day and about 25% of primary school children are overweight or obese.
Safefood lists 15 traditional games that were common to many of our Irish childhoods.
Play as a Human Right
Play is central to the healthy growth and development of the child and is recognised as a basic human right for all children. This right is stated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 31.
“States parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts”.
“States parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.”
Our own National Children’s Strategy ‘Our Children – Their Lives’ states:
“Children will have access to play, sport, recreation and cultural activities to enrich their experience of childhood”
United Nations General comment on Article 31
Súgradh welcomes the announcement earlier this year from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child of the adoption of a General comment that clarifies for governments worldwide the meaning and importance of
Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Article 31 ensures that:
“States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities … and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.”
The stated objectives of the General Comment are:
To enhance understanding of the importance of Article 31 for
children’s well- being and development, and for the realisation
of other rights in the Convention.
To provide interpretation to States parties with regard to the provisions,
and consequent obligations, associated with Article 31.
To provide guidance on the legislative, judicial, administrative, social and
educational measures necessary to ensure its implementation for all
children without discrimination and on the basis of equality of opportunity.
The Committee was concerned by the poor recognition given by States to the rights contained in article 31. Specific areas of concern relate to poor recognition of the significance of article 31 in the lives of children which has resulted in lack of investment in appropriate provisions, weak or non- existent protective legislation and the invisibility of children in national and local-level planning.
In general, where investment is made, it is in the provision of structured and organized activities, but equally important is the need to create time and space for children to engage in spontaneous play, recreation and creativity, and to promote societal attitudes that support and encourage such activity.
The Committee is also particularly concerned about the difficulties faced by particular categories of children in relation to enjoyment and conditions of equality of the rights defined in article 31, especially girls, children with disabilities, indigenous children and children belonging to minorities, among others.
This general comment has been developed to address these concerns amongst others, raise the profile, awareness and understanding among States of the centrality of the rights in article 31 in the life and development of every child, and urge them to elaborate measures to ensure their implementation.
The full copy of the General comment No. 17 (2013) on the right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts (art. 31) can be accessed at UNHCR.
Play is a Natural Part of both Human and Animal experience !