Oh what a question to try to answer.
I’m sure that if you asked 10 different people they would come up with 10 different definitions.
My own definition would be:
Play is the free choice of the child without the interference of adults. It is the way children develop their own character traits and decide on their likes and dislikes. Play is the cornerstone of life for a child.
Play can come in all shapes and sizes and usually, seems rather chaotic to adults. Play can be silent or noisy, fantasy or real, sociable or unresponsive, clever or silly. However it appears, play is important and we owe it to all children to ensure they have the ‘right to play’.
The opportunity for free play seems to be diminishing in our modern world. The amount of traffic on the roads and the speed of that traffic, the fear of strangers, and the lack of tolerance of play are impacting on our children’s right to play.
Economic pressures means that both parents are more than likely to be working and therefore the close communities, where neighbours would automatically watch out for the children playing, are disappearing and becoming a feature of the past.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child features, in Article 31, the right to engage in play and recreational activities. This gives play the credence it deserves.
Having said all this, play is not the only way children can learn. Observing, mimicking and listening are among other ways to learn but through play, children can test out their learning in a safe and understandable way.
Children need play to help them to learn to understand and cope with the life around them. The world needs to make sense.
Let’s not deprive children of this vital learning tool.
Do you remember playing out in the street with all the other kids? I’d love it if you could share your memories of those times.