Why policy for play?

This site is for anyone interested in children’s play, and in making and protecting space for it in the public realm

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.

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 the need to be 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 impact of the financial crisis and its profound effect 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.

Adrian Voce,
November 2011

3 Responses to “Why policy for play?”

  1. Jess 11 November 2011 at 10:10 am #

    A valuable space Adrian …for too long the ‘Play movement’ such as it is has been without a strong political voice ,consistent voice that is , perhaps with support Policy for Play might encourage a strong voice from the field , welcome.


    • adrianvoce 11 November 2011 at 10:50 am #

      Thanks Jess. Welcome to you – good to have you on board. I don’t think we did too badly over the last 10 years, although perhaps not so well more recently. Anyway, for my part it’s good to now be in position to speak independently. Let’s see how much noise we can make!


  2. Leslie poplawski 7 November 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    Thank you for what you are doing. I’m a married mom of three sons living in the U.S. When recess was taken from my youngest (middle schooler) I saw how disappointed he and all his friends were, & I felt their stifled frustration, even cried once in a while on especially beautiful days, I admit.
    I, too believe policy & play go hand in hand. Leslie Twitter/Recess Awareness Facebook Group Page/Recess Success


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