The benefits of play


Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognised by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child

Children’s right to play is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 31 recognises: “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.”

What is play

  • Play is self-chosen and self-directed.
  • Play is intrinsically motivated—means are more valued than ends.
  • Play is guided by mental rules, but the rules leave room for creativity.
  • Play is imaginative.

What are the benefits of play

Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.


Physical: unstructured play gets children moving and improves coordination, motor skills and balance; building muscle and bone density

Emotional: children experience anticipation and frustration and learn to self-regulate through play. Building self-confidence and esteem; experimenting with various emotions; and releasing emotions from trauma are three aspects of emotional development achieved through play.


Social: unstructured play gives children the opportunity to create their own games and make the rules; honing their skills in negotiation, making compromises, conflict resolution, promoting inclusion, team working and tact, among others.

Cognitive: play allows children to test and experiment, learn through trial and error and are free to make mistakes free of judgement or serious consequence. Imagination, understanding, predicting, remembering, communicating are all part of


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