by Jerome Anderson
In today’s world of technology and pushy parents that want academic savvy children, where is the play-time for our kids? For many years parents have been bringing their children to homework clubs, football, basketball, netball practice, plus dance classes and other activities to improve their children’s outlook on life. While all these structured activities are good for a child at a young age, is it really what they want?
According to Article 31 of the UN convention on the rights of children, young people and children have the right to ‘play’ by law. So if you were thinking that it was some activity that happened after all school work and structured activities then think again.
Play, is for young people and children alike, an innate impulse. So if you are wondering why is my child digging up worms in the back garden or why is my child play fighting with the children around them or why is my child playing all by themselves. Don’t worry this is typically normal behaviour because children play for many reasons. For many children it is their way of exploring and developing an understanding of their world.
If the works of authoritarians Bob Hughes and Frank King are anything to go by ‘Play is freely chosen; personally directed, intrinsically motivated behaviour that actively engages the child.’ What does all that mean? In simple terms the child chooses what they want to do, themselves. The child chooses how they do something; also the child chooses why they do something. If you are a parent just ask yourself, How many times have you gone to a child to ask them to come for dinner, and when you encounter their play they just stop? This is because in a child’s head there is no space, unless they are adopted as honorary children, for adults to play.
Hughes and King go on to describe, "Play can be fun or serious. Through play children explore social, material and imaginary worlds and their relationship with them, elaborating all the while a flexible range of responses to the challenges they encounter. By playing, children learn and develop as individuals, and as members of the community".
If Play is facilitated correctly it also has a lot to give children. It can give freedom, exercise, grow confidence, help build friendships, improve social skills, develop life skills, develop risk assessment skills and most importantly it offers fun.
In the book “The Playworkers handbook” by Teena Kamen she describes “play” as “the most essential part of a child’s development”, so why is there such a need for children to play? Ms Kamen goes on to explain that play helps children’s and young peoples development and learning by providing opportunities for self chosen and well motivated learning, challenging and interesting experiences, gaining confidence and independence, developing a wide range of physical skills, developing problem-solving skills and improving concentration. The list goes on and the benefits are endless.
So it is official, children need play and children have the right to play… it’s the law!!!