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UN Convention on Right to Play

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – UNCRC – is an international treaty that sets out universally recognised rights for all children.

children playing on small grassy area behind houses

It takes into account their developmental needs and their needs now as citizens in their own right. It’s a comprehensive benchmark against which a country’s treatment of children can be measured. The UK and nearly all the countries in the world have signed up to the Convention apart from two: Somalia and the USA.

Article 31: the right to play

Article 31 states that countries must “recognize 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.” General Comment 17 further clarifies that governments are expected to ‘respect, protect and fulfil’ this right.

Play is fundamental, not extra

The Convention recognises that free play is not an optional extra for children: it is fundamental to their physical, social, mental and emotional development and intrinsic to their health and happiness in the present moment. As such, play relates closely to many of the other important articles in the Convention.

Play can and should happen in many places, the main ones being home, school and free play outdoors. We believe this should include the streets and places close to where children live.

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