Children have an innate sense of curiosity and play is the means by which they learn about the world around them. In addition to formal play spaces and activities, the built environment and how it fosters informal, free play is critical for children’s development, health, and well-being.
Children today have less freedom than previous generations and spend more time indoors, often due to parent’s perceptions of safety. Some parents try to overcompensate by enrolling their children in organized activities, and while these programs have a great deal of value, they can also lead to over-programmed and stressed out kids.
As they grow, children begin to explore areas around their homes and neighbourhoods, starting with the common areas of multi-unit dwellings, local streets, nearby parks, and informal play areas (such as parking lots). Making areas close to home where child and youth can play is important for their development and helps to build their confidence, creativity, social skills, problem solving skills, and independence in a safe and stimulating environment.
Youth often feel that they are not welcome in public space or have no spaces to call their own. Providing spaces for older children where they can play or socialize is also important for their development and provides them with a sense of belonging.
Creating well-designed neighbourhoods and built environments can help foster children and youth’s ability to play, be physically active, develop critical skills, and can help allay parent’s fears around safety.
PLAY IN BUILT ENVIRONMENTS
UNCRC and PLAY IN BUILT ENVIRONMENTS
Article 12 is about the views of the child
Children and young people have a right to participate in all matters affecting them, and those views should be given due weight “in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”.
Article 15 is about having friends
Children and youth have the right to be with friends and join or set up clubs, unless this interferes with the rights of others.
Article 31promotes the benefits of play
Children and youth have the right to play and relax by doing things like sports, music and drama. It is essential to have spaces where children and youth have the ability to learn about themselves and the world through play.
"The right to play is a child's first claim on the community. Play is nature's training for life. No community can infringe on that right without doing deep and enduring harm to the bodies and minds of citizens."
~ David Lloyd George, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Image by Seema Krishnakumar/cc/flickr