Why is play important?

Why is play important?

Play is an essential part of every child's life and is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.

When children are asked about what they think is important in their lives, playing and friends is usually at the top of the list.

Defining play

How do we define what 'playing' actually means?

Our 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.

Summaries of the research and evidence of the positive benefits of play are discussed in detail in Play for a Change, and the Children's Play Council's Making the case for play.

 

Children's right to play

The right to play and informal recreation, for all children and young people up to 18 years of age, is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK government in 1991. The government has a duty under this convention to protect and promote play opportunities for all children and young people.

 

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