Category Archives: UNICEF

Making Way for World Children’s Day

World Children’s Day commemorates the joys of childhood as well as the responsibilities of families, communities and governments to safeguard children’s rights including their mental, physical, social and economic well-being.

New York City – 1959. Sourced from The New York Daily News.

First established in 1954 as Universal Children’s Day, it is celebrated annually on November 20 “to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.”

Also on November 20th 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. And on the same date 30 years later during the 44th session of the General Assembly, then UN adopted, opened for signature, ratification and accession the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In 1989, the General Assembly was profoundly concerned that:

the situation of children in many parts of the world remains critical as a result of inadequate social conditions, natural disasters, armed conflicts, exploitation, illiteracy, hunger and disability…

The Convention has been ratified by most countries with the significant exception of the United States. Current status of signatories and parties to the Convention is available here on the UN site including a list of declarations and reservations.

Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong  – 1989 – Sourced from CNN

Article 31 of the Convention states that:

…every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

Play is an integral component of any holistic celebration of childhood. The opportunity for kids to play independently in a secure environment is central to their well-being and their discovery of the world around them. For an in depth treatment of play considerations associated with Article 31, please consult General Comment 17 to the Committee on the Rights of the Child by the International Play Association.

Communities in various parts of the world are celebrating this day with play related activities and programs. In Alberta, Canada a full day has been set aside for the Calgary Play Summit with a goal of Transforming Calgary into the City of Play.

Calgary has been on a roll for a few years with events, policy development and programming. In 2017, the City hosted the International Play Association (IPA) Triennial Conference. The Calgary Play Charter was signed to coincide with the conference bringing together “leaders from 36 Calgary and area organizations joined Mayor Nenshi, the Canadian Ministry for Sport and Persons with Disability, and MLA Robyn Luff in a celebration of play, community and partnership to sign this play charter.” More recently, the City took a leadership role in developing a guide to champion Mobile Adventure Playgrounds.

There is much more going on for, with and by children. Kids are the change that adults can’t contain as referenced in the UNICEF video below. How can we encourage our communities and governments to engage?

All the best from Nova Scotia on #WorldChildrensDay

 

Play Knows No Language

Earlier this month, our son Noah-David started Grade Two. This year there is a bit of a twist. Noah and his younger sister Nellie-Rose, who is just beginning her school day adventures, are now being taught completely in French in a school that is part of a French language school board, le Conseil scolaire acadien. French is Noah’s mother tongue but after two years of education in English he was losing his ability to speak it fluently.

He was a little anxious about not knowing anyone in his class and not having strong reading skills in French. There was newness all around including lunches in a large cafeteria. Noah was a little at a loss and feeling the weight of not quite fitting in. This was most pronounced during the time he spent in the crowded cafeteria. His enjoyment of the new school was suffering. At home, we spent some time with Noah speaking about how he was feeling and let the school know what was going on too. We encouraged Noah to dive in and speak with the kids around him in the cafeteria. A couple of days later, he resolved the problem through play.

Source – grandparents.com – click through for 12 pre-digital age hand games.

In the cafeteria again for lunch, Noah saw some kids a few aisles away playing rock, paper, scissors. He nudged the kid next to him and asked him if he wanted to play. Lunchtimes have been smooth sailing ever since. The outdoors icebreaker turned out to be soccer, one of Noah’s favourite sports. We now get daily reports about his feats in the Grade Two pick up league.

Play knows no language, it communicates organically setting in motion an idiom of laughter, fun and pulsing expectation. I remember we never wanted to head back to class when recess’ too short mash up of movement was frozen by the bell. It didn’t matter what we were playing – British Bulldog, Red Rover, Kick the Can, something from the Tag family, or just a bit of freelance tomfoolery – we wanted the clock to tock, tock, tick forever. In France, we were marksmen taking aim at a small pyramid of billes (painted clay alleys) from ten paces until we popped the top and sent them scattering. Scotland’s skills tester had us cracking a shiny tennis ball high and low against a brick wall.

Every place has its collection of favourites, games for all seasons. Although I have not found a central repository or portal for pre-digital games, there are resources such as Games for the Playground, Home, School and Gymnasium published in the early years of the last century and available in its entirety right here (via The Gutenberg Project). This is a 500 plus pages compendium of games that many of us have never played. Worth a look if you’re involved in organized activities with kids à la beavers, cubs, etc.

There is more contemporary fare with an international flavour. UNESCO’s Bangkok office has led a project to document traditional children’s games in South-East Asia.

There is a lot to choose from in this inventory of intangible cultural heritage and it’s all available for download.

Source: UNESCO. Click image for game details

An International Inspiration program set up by the British Council, UK Sport and UNICEF to coincide with the London Olympics has also compiled a number of games from around the world and a map. They are available here.

And here is a selection of traditional games shared through International Inspiration.

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Digital is not the only game in town. Play outdoors and explore some games of the world.

I’m on the lookout for more sources of good kids’ games. Please let me know if you come across any…

Rights of the Child Marks 20 Years in UK

This December 16th marks 20 years since the UK ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In recognition of this anniversary, PlayGroundology wants to share with its readers in the UK and elsewhere an inspirational project from Montreal’s Salamander playground.

Salamander Playground in Mount Royal Park is the first public space in the world where images and text have been used side by side to tell the story of children’s rights. The images by artist Gérard Dansereau temper the seriousness of the message with a breath of lightness, splashes of colour and an invitation to play. Montréal now joins Massongex, Switzerland and Luxembourg as cities with Rights of the Child commemorative paths.

To Be Different – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

To Be Different (text) – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Article 2 (Non-discrimination): The Convention applies to all children, whatever their race, religion or abilities; whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from. It doesn’t matter where children live, what language they speak, what their parents do, whether they are boys or girls, what their culture is, whether they have a disability or whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.

To Be Protected – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

To Be Protected (text) – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Article 19 (Protection from all forms of violence): Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. In terms of discipline, the Convention does not specify what forms of punishment parents should use. However any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour – ones that are non-violent, are appropriate to the child’s level of development and take the best interests of the child into consideration. In most countries, laws already define what sorts of punishments are considered excessive or abusive. It is up to each government to review these laws in light of the Convention.

To Play – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

To Play (text) – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Article 31 (Leisure, play and culture): Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities.

To express oneself – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Survival and development – Tile Series by G. Dansereau – Montreal, Canada

Article 6 (Survival and development): Children have the right to live. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.

The tile series tells the story of children’s rights in a visual language that is accessible to younger kids. And then of course there is Salamander Playground itself. If you’re in Montreal, it’s well worth a visit.

Go Tell it on the Mountain – Montréal’s Salamander Playground

There’s shade on the mountain and sometimes a soft silky breeze blows a refreshing kiss. These are welcome blessings in one of North America’s finest festival cities where summer’s sticky drip calls out for relief and release. If the kids are not already hot enough, they can work up some steam and then cool down at a new playground opened in 2009 in Montréal’s Mount Royal Park.

In the splash, paddle and run zone, timed jets of water arc into the air from embedded nozzles and a watery film gently bathes a stationary orb. The playground flows through a dip in a small glade in an unhurried meander. Bordered on one side by a sweep of trees, it then opens onto a modest plain lush with grass and shade.

A bird’s eye view shows that the playground’s outline takes the form of a stylized salamander. Two black climbing rocks serve as the amphibian’s eyes and four play zones are housed in the front and rear footprints. This representation pays tribute to the blue spotted salamander a native species that finds some respite in this green urban oasis where it is on a protected list.

The equipment here is atypical. If it isn’t flash-of-fun, kid powered motion, then the kids have to scrabble over, through, or around it. The architecture, landscape and urban design firm CHA (Cardinal Hardy) did their homework sourcing the material for this playscape. Some pieces like the tilted spinning platter originate in Germany. Others, like the orbular fountain, were created by CHA’s Bao-Chau Nguyen who also designed the rustic log benches. The black shine meteoric rocks were tracked down in California. The result is a unique play experience, a blend of climbing, whirling, balancing and spinning far from the city’s madding crowds and traffic.

Click for slide show

Aside from the exquisite location, it is the equipment and its thoughtful placement that really sets this playground apart. Getting just the right mix was an important objective.

“We wanted things that kids could say, ‘oh, that’s different, what can I do with this?’ It wasn’t the regular slides, or swings that we were looking for. We were really after pieces that could be used in multiple ways encouraging discovery and a little experimentation. The spinning platter is a good example. You can sit on it, walk on it, lay flat on your belly.” – Isabelle Giasson, CHA Project Manager

As with all new development in the Park, this project had to be sensitive to the already existing landscapes as envisioned in the 19th century by the granddaddy of urban green space designers, Frederic Olmsted. In comparison with the riotous colours of the 1960s era playspace that preceded it, Salamander playground is a study in muted, minimalist tones of silver, blue and black and softly curving contemporary shapings.

In addition to high performance equipment and a design that mimics the natural flow of vertical and horizontal axes, Salamander Playground features another distinguishing element. Embedded in the pathways and benches throughout the playground are images and excerpts of text that tell the story of the Conventions on the Rights of the Child as elaborated and promoted by UNICEF.

Article 6 (Survival and development): Children have the right to live. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily. The Convention on the Rights of the Child

This is the first public space in the world where images and text have been used side by side to tell the story of children’s rights. The images by artist Gérard Dansereau temper the seriousness of the message with a breath of lightness, splashes of colour and an invitation to play. Montréal now joins Massongex, Switzerland and Luxembourg as cities with Rights of the Child commemorative paths.

The Salamander Playground and the Path for Children’s Rights were officially opened on May 25, 2009 at a combined cost of $2.2 million. In 2010, CHA were presented with a Regional Merit Award for this project by the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects.

This playscape has rapidly become a destination for Montréalers. Two visits were not enough for me. I’m looking forward to my next trek up the mountain perhaps in the summer of 2011. Maybe this time I’ll get up enough nerve to dash through the fountains and try out some of the equipment myself – a little adult playground therapy. What are we grown-ups to do, is it just vicarious fun for us?

If you visit on a Sunday from May through September check out the free drumming fest from noon to dusk. This is truly tam-tam a go-go.

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All photos by A. Smith with the exception of aerial Salamander Playground shot by Marc Cramer.