Opinion: Please don’t stop our children from playing

This letter sent to the Star was written by Patrick Meleady, Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, (Sheffield, S8)

Thursday, 16th May 2019, 8:06 am
Updated Monday, 20th May 2019, 7:57 am
Children playing on swings.

I would like to thank and commend Nancy Fielder the editor of the Star Newspaper and the Star Newspaper for sticking up for Play. As Ms Fielder stated, play is an integral part of children’s lives, learning and development. Today’s children already spend increasingly long periods of time at school each day. Children need a break during the long school day and what better way to recharge their batteries than play.

The French learnt this some time ago, having reduced in some areas children’s opportunities to play at school time, focusing instead upon ‘learning’. In 2010, they were obliged as a Government to reintroduce play opportunities/play spaces for pupils outside of lessons, back into schools where there had been a diminution in play. This was entitled ‘Espaces ludiques en milieu scolaire’.

Reintroducing play into the school system in France, research showed, led to reduced school violence and helped struggling pupils to gain confidence and become more cooperative. In general, the French found that giving children time to play as they wished, helped them to relax and recharge their batteries. Improvements in autonomy, communication, socialisation and respect of rules were also evident.

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Play is a right for children is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. Play is a fundamental right for children rather than encroaching upon and removing opportunities for play here in the UK, there is a need for schools to create time and space for children to engage in self-chosen, self-directed spontaneous play, creativity and physical activity are equally important.

Local Authorities and Central Government need to promote societal attitudes that support and encourage this spontaneous play, in and out of schools

Children deserve and need playful childhoods and adults have a responsibility to secure this for them. Play is good for children, withdrawing or reducing playtimes in schools in contrast is not good for children nor is it good for our society either.