Play – the Heartbeat of Childhood
Ed’s note – I have had the pleasure of serving as a board member of the International Play Association (IPA) Canada for the last couple of years. It’s been a great introduction to the work they have been doing in support of the child’s right to play over the last few decades.
Recently, IPA Canada has hit the reboot on National PlayDay. It’s an event that had fallen off our radar for a few years and we’re bringing it back to celebrate kids and play. The post below is reproduced from the IPA blog. For more on the background of National PlayDay, click here.
Play is the heartbeat of childhood. At home, in the neighbourhood, at the beach, in community parks and school grounds children embrace the opportunity of making their own fun through play. On August 4, join the International Play Association (IPA) Canada and create your own National PlayDay event.
IPA Canada’s National PlayDay is a celebration of wonder, curiosity, discovery and adventure. It’s all about what children do best. Intuitively children know that play is a renewable source of joy and fun but of course its impact is far broader. In fact, play is one of the defining characteristics of our humanity.
Play resonates with children everywhere. Child-directed play has a universal appeal. It is a heady expression of freedom whenever children are granted the space and time to shape their own activities unencumbered by ongoing adult supervision.
The ‘right to play’ is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The General Comments document on article 31 provides additional details that speak to the connection between play and well-being and affirms its critical role and relevance in an increasingly complex world.
Research demonstrates that play exerts a profound influence throughout childhood shaping how we learn, how we express ourselves and how we assess risk and opportunity. Studies from a variety of disciplines reveal that play nurtures children’s physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual development. It is a foundational activity that helps kids interact with and make sense of the world around them.
Play can help children develop resilience and cope with mental health concerns, such as anxiety, that were on the increase during the first wave of the pandemic. For more information about play in times of crisis, free downloadable resources published by IPA World IPA Canada’s international governing body are available here with translations in Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Thai and Turkish.
IPA Canada’s goals are to increase play’s visibility, create greater awareness of the pressing need to get children playing more and encourage parents and communities to be strong agents of play.
There is evidence that change is needed. In Canada, ‘active play’ gets an F in the latest (2020) ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. In practice this means that only 21% of 5- to 11-year-olds engage in active play for more than 1.5 hours per day on average. Two years earlier, active play was given a D. We are moving in the wrong direction.
Canada is not alone. Higher income countries are witnessing a declining incidence of outdoor play and a decrease in independent mobility for kids. These are notable societal shifts that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recently concluded series of national consultations led by IPA Canada confirmed that there is a growing understanding of play’s role as an important contributor to the healthy development of children. Our discussions with parents, early childhood educators and municipal government representatives are helping to inform new initiatives linked to play leadership and provision as well as the development of resource materials focusing on children’s right to play.
IPA Canada benefits from the support and experience of the IPA international member network. Here in Canada, many accomplished groups and organizations are associated with children’s play. It truly takes a village to make a difference. Other national advocates include The Lawson Foundation, the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, Outdoor Play Canada and the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada.
There is no time like the present to get involved, lend a hand and have some fun working toward creating the conditions that will help play flourish in our homes and communities. Here are some simple ideas to consider and possibly incorporate into IPA Canada National PlayDay events:
- explore the neighbourhood to discover playful spaces
- draw on childhood memories of favourite play places and activities for inspiration
- invite friends to play at home or at a local park
- in busy households, schedule time for play with children and/or for independent play
- explore play ideas and resources online
IPA Canada is a not-for-profit national organization whose mandate is to protect and promote the child’s right to play.
Connect with International Play Association (IPA) Canada