Welcome to Policy for Play!
This site is for anyone interested in – or concerned about – children’s play and how to provide for it in the modern world.
Opportunities to play are recognised as a human right for children by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a legally binding international instrument which member state governments have committed to ensure and be accountable for.
Children will play wherever they get the chance but adequate play opportunities take physical and social space – as well as the time and the permission to enjoy it. Because they are not financially or socially independent, children’s right to play cannot be left to the market. The UNCRC obliges governments to provide or enable the space and the opportunities for children to play within the public realm – not to simply leave it to the leisure industry or to volunteers.
Playing, for children, is surpassed in importance only by being being loved, cared for and nourished. Insufficient and inadequate play provision can be profoundly detrimental, affecting children’s happiness, health and future life chances. Yet the modern world has erected many barriers, and children all too often find their play marginalised, undermined or compromised by adult concerns. According to some estimates children in the UK today have less than a tenth of the freedom to play outside enjoyed by children only 30 years ago.
Changing this needs concerted and long-term coordination of government policy. The International Play Association (IPA), for example, has called for the coordination of at least five different areas of public policy for the realisation of the right to play: health, education, welfare, leisure and planning. Others would add transport and law and order to this list, such is the influence of traffic and policing on children’s freedom to play.
Recent years have seen advances in play policy in various parts of the world. As the movement to promote the right to play has developed and matured it has made some significant progress. In 2013, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child published a General Comment on Article 31 of its Convention, which includes the right to play. This important document clarifies the responsibility of nation states to “respect the right to play; to fulfill the right to play; and to protect the right to play”.
But the ongoing financial crisis and its profound impact on economic policies everywhere has undermined this progress. In times of austerity, children’s free play provision has come to be seen as a soft target for spending cuts and is under threat more than ever, just as children and their families need it most.
I have set up this site to provide a platform and a resource for anyone, anywhere to promote, campaign for, develop or simply sustain policy for play at any level of government. I hope you will visit it often and come to find it useful.