Play makes a huge, but often overlooked, contribution to family life and society. Playing brings families together and is a perfect way for parents, grandparents and other adults to spend quality time with children, and also to learn from each other. Play is a basic need for children – just like eating, sleeping or drinking. It allows children to develop skills for life and is the main way children learn about themselves, others and their world. For example, a child at play learns to balance, catch, climb, crawl, jump, walk, run and throw and much more. He or she also learns how to solve problems and communicate and cooperate with others. Playing is not only a birth right of every child, enshrined by the United Nations (UN) in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but also an essential part of growing up.
It is therefore worrying to see that even though its benefits are clear, the UN has described the right to play as ‘forgotten’ in today’s society. A 2012 report by a group of play experts found that children’s play is under threat because of increasing urbanisation, changes to the educational system and the increasing stress of family life.
The benefits for children of having time for free, unstructured play should not be overlooked. Play offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children. But modern family life can be stressful and it may seem difficult to fit in time to simply play with children around work, other commitments and homework. However, many tools are available to give parents fun play ideas that that can easily fit in to busy schedules. For example, www.maketime2play.co.uk and www.daletiempoaljuego.com give tips about how to add a playful element to a car journey or shopping trips.
As the toy sector places children’s well-being as its main priority, Toy Industries of Europe (TIE) is proud to partner with the European Parents’ Association to draw attention to the importance of play for children’s development, health and learning and to ensure that children have appropriate opportunities to play. A child’s first experiences of play are usually with parents, who significantly influence children’s play and help them to develop social and communication skills. Together we can help to ensure that play is rightly recognised as an essential part of growing up and that Europe cannot be reproached for ‘forgetting’ the right to play.
Further information about our EU level campaign to raise awareness about the value of children’s play is available on www.importanceofplay.eu.
Guest contribution by Catherine Van Reeth, the Director General of Toy Industries of Europe (TIE), the association for the European toy industry. TIE is proud of the contributions made by toys and play to society. TIE and its members support diverse activities that raise awareness of the positive role of toys and play in society.
Reciprocation of guest contribution of Eszter Salamon, EPA president 22nd January 2014 on the TIE blog