What is Meant by a Child’s Right to Play?

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Every child has a right to play.

Whether it’s with their family, friends, or classmates, children learn from their ability to play well with others, or independently.

Play is so important that it has become an integral part of children’s rights across the world.

Children’s rights in Wales

Within Wales, children are protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as well as additional laws created in 2011.

Article 31 of the UNCRC states that all children have a right to play and relax, as it’s so vital to their growth and development.

The government have been committed to bringing the UN Rights of the Child to the forefront by creating the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure in 2011. This highlights ministers’ obligations to ensure Welsh people are aware of children’s rights and to comply with the statements laid out in the UNCRC.

Why is play so important?

Play has been identified as a crucial component of childhood as its key to learning new skills and developing relationships with others. When children interact with those around them, they enhance their communication abilities, while other activities can help them to fine-tune their motor skills.

If children are play-deprived, they can suffer the effects of this in later life, finding it harder to connect with others. A child’s right to play is significant in helping to develop healthy, well-rounded individuals.

Children’s right to play in childcare settings

If you’re a childcare worker, you’ll be aware of the importance of play and the impact it can have on a child’s life.

To give children the greatest chance of expanding their learning horizons, they should be presented with lots of different options, such as outdoor play, and be able to lead their own play too.

Engaging children in musical activities and artistic pursuits can help them to express themselves creatively, but there should be time for free play as well.

Free play allows a child to take their own risks, and build resilience, rather than being restricted by the adults around them.

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales recently released The Right Way framework for childcare professionals to follow, outlining the importance of children and adults learning about human rights.

It discusses the accountability adults must have for upholding children’s right to play, as well as supporting and respecting them at all times.

They should have the opportunity to participate freely in recreational activities, identifying their own wants and desires to further improve children’s health.

What does the EYFS say about a child’s right to play?

The Early Years Foundation Stage framework puts play at the heart of advice for practitioners, saying that it can help children achieve their goals and problem-solve.

It goes on to say:

Practitioners need to decide what they want children in their setting to learn, and the most effective ways to teach it. Practitioners must stimulate children’s interests, responding to each child’s emerging needs and guiding their development through warm, positive interactions coupled with secure routines for play and learning.

Play may be the most effective way for a child to learn in certain settings and should be used as part of the child’s development while they’re at nursery or school.

“The EYFS (and EFYP in Wales) outline the importance of play in childhood,” says Rachel Cox, Head of Childcare at TSW Training, “showing that it’s vital for children to develop. A child’s right to play should always be respected, at home and at nursery, in line with the UN convention.”  

Putting it into practice

In every setting, there should be a balance between structured learning opportunities, and free play.

If you’re working in a setting where there aren’t many recreational activities going on, chat to your supervisor to see how you can make the most of opportunities for children to play together.

A playwork qualification can help you to understand the positive effects of play, and the benefits it can bring to children.

We offer a range of childcare programmes for your team, at different levels to suit their abilities and experience.

Picture of Richard Hywood
Richard Hywood
Richard is TSW Training Apprenticeships’ Employer and Community Engagement Manager. His articles will help your business prepare for and manage apprentices.
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