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Print this pageThe Right to Play




Child Rights International Network

Resource type:

Educational materials

"Play is a child's first claim on the community. No community can infringe
that right without doing deep and enduring harm to the minds and bodies
of its citizens".

(British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, (1926))

There is substantial evidence in support of the need for children to play safely and freely. Many research studies have been conducted which emphasise the importance of the role of play in the development of children, both educationally and in terms of their health and well-being. In societies which are emerging from conflict, play takes on an additional role in ensuring that children overcome the trauma of war.

What is “play”?

“Play is the means by which children explore their environment, their world, their roles and relationships.”

Article 31 of the CRC refers to the child’s right to leisure, play, recreation, culture and the arts. Whilst some of the concepts are problematic, it is clear that the right encompasses a wide range of activity. In particular, play has been defined by the playwork profession as behaviour which is “freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated i.e. performed for no external goal or reward’ (PlayEducation, 1982).

Convention of the Rights of the Child

Article 31 states:

1. State Parties recognise the right of the child 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.
2. State Parties shall respect and promote the rights 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.

Article 31 has often been overlooked as a stand-alone right, yet other convention rights also have a direct impact on play. For example, the CRC states that education should be directed to a broad range of developmental areas, including the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities (Article 29). Play and leisure activities can also play a vital role in meeting the child’s right to “the highest attainable standard of health” and to “preventative health care” as set out in Article 24.

Further Information

Article by Paul J Jacobs: “Play for the right reasons” (International Journal of Children's Rights: 7, 277-281, 1999)

Education: Managing behaviour when working with children (4 December 2007)

Right to Play: Enhancing play in the environment (13 November 2007)

Right to Play: Fear stops child development (29 October 2007)

United Kingdom: No outdoor play hurts children (10 September 2007)
Saudi Arabia: Young girls barred from play (11 July 2007)

Lebanon: Children play to tackle war trauma (24 September 2006)

India: All work and no play for India’s army of toiling children (16 August 2006)

United Kingdom: London’s first adventure playground in 20 years gives children positive opportunities to hang out (19 July 2005)

Other organisations:

Previous Educational materials items

Organisation Contact Details:

Child Rights International Network
East Studio
2 Pontypool Place
Tel: +44 (0)207 401 2257

Last updated 24/06/2010 08:46:30

Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.

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