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Scottish charity Right To Play UK and global partners successfully call on the United Nations to put play in the spotlight for two billion children worldwide

Right To Play and global partners have successfully called on the United Nations to adopt an annual International Day of Play to champion and protect children’s right to play.

Play is a fundamental right for every child. Yet, the importance of play is often forgotten. With only 30% of adults aware that play is a fundamental birth right adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 1989, there is an urgent need to put play back on the agenda. 

To drive this ambition forward, a dedicated network of global organisations, play experts and, most importantly, children and youth themselves, have called on UN member states to support the resolution for an annual International Day of Play. Global development organisation Right To Play and other founding members of the movement are proud to announce that, yesterday (25 March), the UN General Assembly adopted this international awareness day, with support from more than 140 countries. The annual International Day of Play will now take on 11 June every year, beginning in 2024. 

Gillian McMahon, Executive Director of Right To Play UK, who is based in Scotland, said: “The adoption of an International Day of Play is a momentous milestone that will put the spotlight on the transformational benefits of play at a global level and help ensure that children around the world can claim this basic right. In the countries where Right To Play works, the power of play is having a life-changing impact on vulnerable children, equipping them with the critical life skills to overcome challenges and helping them to cope with trauma and get back to learning. Ultimately, play is empowering children to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. Through international recognition of the vital importance of play and this new global platform, we can work to ensure that no child is denied the fundamental right to play.” 

Playing for impact  
Play is universal and taps into children’s natural enthusiasm and curiosity to learn. It teaches them to explore and wonder, connect ideas and experiences and gain a deeper understanding of the world. When children play, they develop essential life skills, which are fundamental to their own and society’s progress, and a lifelong love of learning.  

The need to support children’s right to play is more urgent now than ever, including for children who are experiencing crisis. New research shows that play is one of the most effective ways to support children’s psychosocial wellbeing, social and emotional development, and learning, as it allows them to express themselves and connect with others in ways that go well beyond what they can say with words.      

“Play is not just for fun. It’s an essential part of our human nature. It’s through play that we learn, grow, and develop skills that will shape our future,” says Anime, Child and Youth Advisory Group member France. 

This is why the International Day of Play network of organisations are committed to driving a global play movement for children everywhere for generations to come: The campaign was initiated by the LEGO Group and the LEGO Foundation in partnership with Right To Play, ADEA, Arup, BRAC, Change X, Concerned for Working Children, Eurochild, Hasbro, INGKA, International Play Association, IRC, KidZania, Mattel, NIKE, inc., PEDAL, Plan International, Save the Children and Sesame Workshop.  

The campaign draws on further global insights revealing that, on average, three in five (59%) children would like to play more than they do now, whilst four in five (79%) of children would like to play more with their parents or carer. Research also shows how eight in ten (78%) of children say grown-ups don’t always think playing is important and seven in ten (73%) don’t believe grown-ups take play–and how it can help them learn – seriously. 

Play is never just play 
An estimated 160 million children around the world are working instead of playing or learning. Yet, even in their darkest moments, children can find their way back to hope, health and happiness through play. Because play is never just play. Play is powerful. The power of play unlocks potential, instils confidence, saves lives, heals, promotes learning and creates a world of possibilities.  

The adoption of a UN resolution for a day centered around play takes children’s right one step further. It creates a unifying moment at the global, national, and local levels to elevate the importance of play as central to children’s learning and wellbeing – ensuring time to play, space to play and support for quality play is prioritized.  
Right To Play and the other coalition partners of International Day of Play are celebrating that this important movement has now been ratified, recognising the true power of play at the highest political level. We invite everyone to join us in celebrating the power of play on 11 June this year, and every year thereafter. 

As the global experts on play, Right To Play is an organisation that protects, educates and empowers millions of children every year to rise above adversity through the power of play. Founded in 2000, the charity uses play-based learning and psychosocial support to help vulnerable children affected by war, disease, climate change, violence, poverty, inequality, prejudice and exploitation. Programming in 14 countries, Right To Play is the leading global development organisation focused on using the power of play to transform children’s lives. 

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