“I have a right to relax and play”

Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) says that children and young people have the right to have fun in the way they want to, whether by playing sports, watching films, or doing something else entirely. They have the right to rest, too.

Children and young people should be able to take part freely in cultural activities, just like adults. The government should make sure it’s easy for them to do this whether or not they have a disability.

This is the basis of the work underway in all four nations of the United Kingdom promoting the Right to Play for children and young people. As we prepare for the coming summer break, we hope that all adults and children will have an opportunity to pause for some rest and relaxation. With this in mind we have curated information about Play – for children, teenagers, young people, parents and, by extension, all adults too.

Play has been described as “behaviour initiated, controlled and structured by children, as non-compulsory, driven by intrinsic motivation, not a means to an end and that it has key characteristics of fun, uncertainty, challenge, flexibility and non-productivity.” This definitely applies to adult leisure activities too – so, it’s time to expand our understanding of play (it is not just for pre-schoolers).


We are, of course, working in and with schools in England and we are aware that there have been different approaches to the pandemic across the Four Nations. Thinking about how best to support children and young people as the “lockdown” is eased, I was interested to come across this statement from Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland. I was encouraged to read that she had addressed her remarks directly to young people and taken the time to indicate concern for their needs:

We want to help children enjoy these summer holidays a bit more…… I’m announcing today two further changes to our rules to allow for a bit more interaction between young people ….. I hope these changes, do allow you as children and young people a bit more freedom in meeting up with your friends, and I hope they allow you to make a bit more of the summer holidays, even if as will probably be the case in Scotland, it’s raining for much of the time.”

You can read the full statement here.

The basis of this statement came from research commissioned by the Play Safety Forum. The COVID and Children’s Play report indicates  that the benefits to children’s mental health and wellbeing of playing and learning outside together with others far outweigh the minimal risks to them and the adults around them. The argument that outdoor play is key to reopening and recovery is outlined in this opinion piece by the chief executive of Play Scotland and the Chair of Trustees of Play England.

Play for Teenagers

The ways in which teenagers play are often a source of concern or conflict within families and schools. The ways in which teenagers play include: hanging out; trying new things influenced by friends rather than family; risk taking; online activity including gaming.

The organisation Playful Childhoods has produced these ‘Top Tips to support your teenager’s play’ (webpage with translation function), also available to download as a PDF here.

Playful parenting

The charity Play Wales has a wonderful website about Playful Parenting with a number of ‘top tips’ guides to different aspects of play. Thinking about summer holidays with my own children (all now grown up) I was particularly taken with these two, but there is a wide range:

Top tips for playing in the dark

Playing in the dark can feel particularly exciting and magical.”

Top tips for playing with earth, water, fire and air

From jumping in puddles to chasing leaves in the wind, children are natural explorers of the elements – earth, water, fire and air.

Also available to download here

If you want to refresh your support for families during the holidays, this Home Play Pack from Play Scotland is another useful and well-produced resource.

Play in Crisis

For children and families who are still working through the anxiety and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic the International Play Association has produced a guide for families under the theme of Play in Crisis. Each page of the resource provides parents and carers with information and ideas, so they can support their child’s play. There are topics such as the importance of playing in crisis, and how to respond to children’s play needs, through to issues that parents may be concerned about, like children playing with difficult themes of loss, death and loneliness.

The resource can be downloaded here.

Play and mental health

Playing is central to children’s mental, social and emotional health and well-being. Through play, children develop resilience and flexibility, which contributes to physical and emotional well-being.

Play Wales have produced a simple and accessible information sheet that briefly explains the importance of playing for brain development and mental health. It also explores how playing contributes to children’s emotional well-being and how it relates to the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’.

The Psychology of Play

The British Psychological Society have produced research and information about play, some of which we featured in an earlier newsletter (#3:The importance of play). Recently, the same team have produced a short video for professionals expanding the psychology of play, available here:

This is a lovely version for parents with lots of illustrations of very simple play activities featuring children of all ages:

Inspirational people…

Finishing off this week's tour of our neighbouring nations, I had the privilege of hearing Sophie Howe speak at the Manchester International Festival in the summer of 2019. Sophie is the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. The Commissioner’s role is to be the guardian of future generations. This means helping public bodies and those who make policy in Wales to think about the long-term impact their decisions have. I think that is such a wonderful vision and I wish we had one in England!

Sophie has been described as one of the UK’s leading Changemakers. If you are interested in children and their future listen to Sophie here. It will be a great use of 15 minutes of your time:

If you want to hear more of Sophie, she is here on Radio Four’s ‘Four Thought’ (first broadcast in 2018), and here on Reasons to be Cheerful (first broadcast in September 2019). 

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