Why is play important?

Article 31 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) protects play as a right for children. In 2013 the UNCRC defined play 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.” According to educational psychologists, “the importance of children being able to play without intrusive adult controls or structure has been recognised as an important factor in promoting lifelong attributes, such as resilience and flexibility and the development and maintenance of children’s social relationships.” (Mannello, Casey & Atkinson, 2019).

In 2019 the British Psychological Society published a position paper on “Children’s Right to Play” which explains why play is important to all aspects of children’s development. 

Here, with some help from Michael Rosen, children explain why play is important:


Ideas for different types of play

Catalyst has put together an information and ideas sheet for parents that considers the different types of play (free play, guided play, directed play, work disguised as play and work) with some examples for each aspect. This can be download here.

Additional resources

Virtual and Online Play

Play for Teenagers

Playful parenting

Play in Crisis

Play and Mental Health

The Psychology of Play

Schematic Play in the Early Years