Skip to main content

Your web browser is not fully supported by BBC Children in Need, so parts of the website may not function correctly.

International Day of Play

Today is the first International Day of Play to champion and protect the rights of children to play.  This is following a resolution by the United Nations.  Supporting children to play is very important to me: both in my role at BBC Children in Need and as Chair of Play Scotland, Scotland’s National Play Agency. 

children laughing whilst playing tug of war

Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically outlines that it is every child’s right to play and have fun.  But why is play considered to be so important for children that it is now a fundamental right? 

Play is absolutely crucial for children’s development for a multitude of reasons.  It supports their physical, cognitive, social and emotional growth in ways that are integral to their overall development.  Yet it has never been harder for children to play.  When I think of my own childhood (quite some time ago!), I think of playing in the streets, climbing trees and building dens.  For multiple reasons, children today are not getting the same access to these opportunities. That free play and independence most of us remember is being replaced by young lives spent indoors, on screens or under the constant supervision of adults. 

Activities like running, climbing and playing with toys support the development of motor skills that help children to dress themselves, hold a pencil and to get the exercise to keep them fit.  Unstructured play fosters creativity and imagination, allowing children to explore and invent new ideas and scenarios.  That pretend play also enhances language as children narrate actions to their friends.  They learn to take turns, work together, share and navigate disagreements.  Play that requires concentration (such as board games or building projects) help improve attention span and focus.  Risky play (such as climbing a tree or toasting marshmallows over a fire) develops skills in risk assessment.  The list goes on but most of all, play is fun!  It is an essential part of a happy childhood. 

BBC Children in Need funds hundreds of projects across the UK where play is absolutely central to achieving positive outcomes for children.  While these projects have adults on hand, they are mainly there to encourage and facilitate, not to direct and guide.  Children really just need the space and freedom to play in a safe and supportive environment.  Thanks to the funding from BBC Children in Need and the support of those projects, they can have it. 

So, today on the world’s first International Day of Play, why should adults reflect on the value and importance of play?  Don’t just take my word for it: go and jump in a puddle, kick up some leaves, dance to your favourite song like no-one is watching!  I guarantee you will see the wider benefits of play too.  

addbankCN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background calendarCN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background CN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background CN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background chevron-down chevron-lchevron-rchevron-upcommentcross>CN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background detect-locationdocumentdownloadCN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background emailembedexportfavouritefilterhelphomeinfoiphone iplayer liveCN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background more-horizontalmore-verticalphonepingitpostCN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background quote-end quote-open searchsettingsshareshowcase-threads social-facebook social-instagram social-linkedin CN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background social-pinterest social-twitter social-youtube sounds CN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background CN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background ticktimeCN0891 Icons for Resources - No Background puzzle-shelfAsset 1