Today is National Playday, the day that we celebrate the importance of play to children in the United Kingdom.
The benefits of play are innumerable. Play is an important part of a child’s development. It supports young people’s mental and physical health and enhances their creativity and helps them learn new things. It also helps them to develop social relationships and to see themselves as part of their local community.
But, the real reason it is important is because it’s fun! I want to stand up for play for play’s sake, because all children deserve to have fun.
Unfortunately, not every child has access to the things that make play possible.
In The Big Ask, the largest-ever survey of children that I conducted last year, I found out that a fifth of children aged 9—17 (19%) were unhappy with the choice of things to do in their local area and a tenth (10%) were unhappy with their access to somewhere outside to have fun. I also found that children living in deprived areas were more likely to be unhappy with their local area than children living in more affluent areas.
Many children spoke about lacking access to safe, clean places to ‘play’ and spend time with their friends or to engage in extracurricular activities – from playgrounds, to sports clubs, and youth centres:
“More places for kids to play and have fun things to do” – Girl, aged 6.
“Not enough parks to play in” – Boy, aged 9.
“A place to play sports as some places are for cost and isn’t easy for people to pay” – Boy, aged 14.
I want to use my role as Children’s Commissioner to stand up for children’s right to play – and it is a right, under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. That’s why I want to see policies that will support community youth services and the creation of safe public spaces for children.
For children and families looking to have fun this Playday – find out about the events happening near you.
For those wanting to know more about the benefits of play – find out more about Play England’s work here.