The Charter for Children’s Play describes play as: ‘what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas and interests, in their own way, and for their own reasons.’
Play has also frequently been described as ‘what children and young people do when they are not being told what to do by adults’.
Having time and space to play gives children the opportunity to meet and socialise with their friends, keeps them physically active, and gives the freedom to choose what they want to do.
Research shows that play has many benefits for children, families and the wider community, as well as improving health and quality of life. Recent research suggests that children’s access to good play provision can:
increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
improve and maintain their physical and mental health
give them the opportunity to mix with other children
allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills
promote their imagination, independence and creativity
offer opportunities for children of all abilities and backgrounds to play together
provide opportunities for developing social skills and learning
build resilience through risk taking and challenge, problem solving, and dealing with new and novel situations
provide opportunities to learn about their environment and the wider community.
Evidence is also available that outlines wider benefits of play provision for families and communities, suggesting that:
parents can feel more secure knowing that their children are happy, safe and enjoying themselves
families benefit from healthier, happier children
buildings and facilities used by play services are frequently seen as a focal point for communities
it offers opportunities for social interaction for the wider community and supports the development of a greater sense of community spirit, promoting social cohesion
public outside spaces have an important role in the everyday lives of children and young people, especially as a place for meeting friends
parks and other green spaces are popular with adults taking young children out to play and for older children and young people to spend time together.
Children’s right to play is a human right
On 1 February 2013 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted a General Comment that clarifies for governments worldwide the meaning and importance of Article 31 of the Convention on the Right of the Child.