Two boys and a girl try to win a game of tug of war outside in a grassy field.

Celebrating the first International Day of Play

This year, the first-ever International Day of Play will be observed and celebrated on June 11. For children, this is big news. Honouring and celebrating play recognizes it as an essential part of a child’s well-being and development. It’s been considered so important, in fact, that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has made play a fundamental right of every child.

As the United Nations states, play “fosters resilience, creativity, and innovation in individuals. For children in particular, play helps build relationships and improves control, overcome trauma, and problem-solving.”

We’ve long felt that play, in all its forms, has countless benefits and is a very important part of childhood development. But what exactly are the different types of play? Here’s a short summary.

Free play

Free play, also referred to as unstructured play, is any type of play where children are directing themselves. According to researchers like Jean Piaget, it’s an important part of a child’s cognitive development. Common examples include babies playing with blocks, toddlers blowing bubbles, preschoolers playing hide and seek, and children of any age inventing their own games without adult direction. Read more about free play in these articles:

Risky play

Risky play is considered to be free play that’s thrilling and involves uncertainty of outcome and a possibility of physical injury. Researchers have identified six kinds of risky play: play at great heights, play at high speed, play with dangerous tools such as saws and knives, play near dangerous elements such as fire and water, rough-and-tumble play, and play where there’s a chance of getting lost.

While it can sound uncomfortable to parents, researchers also tell us that risky play is necessary for healthy child development. It’s essential for developing confidence and the ability to manage risk, and it’s associated with a host of benefits such as improved interpersonal skills and lower levels of anxiety. Here’s some related reading on risky play:

Active play

Active play is similar to free play. It usually refers to free-form play that follows each child’s preferences and intrinsic motivations, as opposed to more structured physical activity that is directed by adults or formal rules. Research has established that active play has an essential role in children’s physical and psychosocial health. Here’s further reading on active play:

Spread the word about International Day of Play

Play is about to be celebrated world-wide, and for many good reasons. But, as the International Day of Play organization points out, “children need time to play. That’s where we need policies, training and funding to get play integrated into education and community settings.”

You can help by celebrating the day and spreading the word to bring awareness to a need. All children should have the opportunity, time and space they need to play.

Find out more about International Day of Play and how to get involved here:

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