The UN General Comment on Article 31 has been released yesterday, an international treaty that sets out universally accepted rights for children and is a benchmark against which a nation’s treatment of its children can be measured.
“That every child has the right 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.
That member governments 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.”
Challenges recognised in the realisation of this Article are many but include a lack of awareness of the importance of play and recreation.
“Parents, caregivers and public administrators commonly place a higher priority on studying or economic work, while play is often seen as noisy, dirty, disruptive and intrusive. Moreover, adults often lack the confidence, skill or understanding to enable them to support children’s play and interact with them in a playful way. Both the right of children to engage in play and recreation, and its fundamental importance for their well-being, health and development, are poorly understood and undervalued. When it is recognised, it is usually physically active play and competitive games that are valued above, for example, fantasy or social-dramatic play.”
The balance of risk and safety and a lack of access to nature are seen as focal points against the pressure for educational achievement, overly structured schedules and the growing role of electronic media.
Every child deserves the right to play – to develop their cognitive, social and collaborative skills with imaginative play, creativity and not least of all physical activity.