What is Playday?
Playday is the national day for play, which will be celebrated on the 7th of July this year.
As well as a celebration of children’s right to play, Playday is a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives.
Playday has now become a national event promoting play and encouraging communities throughout the country to organise fun and healthy play activities in their own cities, neighbourhoods, streets, parks and open spaces.
Local communities can take the initiative to host Playdays by making time for play using simple ideas, materials and equipment to provide a variety of play opportunities for children in their local area.
It’s easy to celebrate Playday – it doesn’t matter whether your plans are big or small, what’s most important is that children and young people get the opportunity to get out to play for the day, and that collectively we highlight the importance of play in children’s lives.
What is play?
Play is what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas and interests, in their own way and for their own reasons.
Children play in many different ways according to their own interests and abilities, and they enjoy different forms of play at different times and places.
Children’s play may or may not involve equipment and may or may not have an end product. Children play on their own and with others. Their play may be boisterous and energetic or quiet and contemplative, light-hearted or very serious.
Playing promotes children’s sense of well-being and improves their interpersonal skills. Put more simply, it could be said that play is what children do when no-one else is telling them what to do (National Children’s Office 2004).
Why is Playday important?
We all know it and the research supports it – children are happiest and at their most vital and energetic when they play.
Play is considered so important to a child’s development that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) has established it as every child’s right. Article 31 of the convention emphasises the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to their age, and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
Play is the child’s way of making sense of the world – a learning tool that engages, motivates, challenges and pleases. Play gives children an opportunity to demonstrate all that they have observed and learned about the real world and at the same time the opportunity to experiment with how they can make that learning useful in their own world.
Play is essential for physical and emotional growth, for mental, intellectual and educational development, and for acquiring social and behavioural skills.
Play allows children to relive their experiences through their most natural channel – movement! It enhances their physical development i.e. fine and gross motor skills, co-ordination and balance, and consequently leads to a healthy body and organs.
Play provides opportunities for children to experience learning in a meaningful and purposeful way. It is a means by which children can develop the skills and capabilities to be effective learners.
Overall, play supports healthy minds and healthy bodies and most of all play is FUN!
The Benefits of Outdoor Play
In particular playday is a way of highlighting the benefits of outdoor play – in almost a generation outdoor play has practically disappeared from our streets, due to a combination of factors such as heavy traffic on roads, busy scheduled lives, over-reliance on technology for recreation and fears for children’s safety.
One of the consequences of this increasingly sedentary, indoor lifestyle is the effect it is having on children’s health, especially with regard to the rising levels of obesity in Ireland –the latest results from the ongoing ‘Growing up in Ireland’ study show that 26% of nine-year-olds in Ireland are either overweight or obese.
“The time to act is now, whilst we still have a generation of parents and grandparents who grew up outdoors and can pass on their experience and whilst there remains a determination to do something positive in this area. Organisations that have an interest in this area, whether working in our towns and cities or in the countryside, have to connect what they are doing and commit to a long-term approach that really makes a difference.”
Keep it Simple
A well organised Playday event creates an environment where children and young people can freely choose to play in their own way, with adults supporting rather than directing their play.
Playday gives visibilty to children within their community and highlights children’s right to play in their own locality.
Keeping the event simple will give the children and young people attending the confidence to be able to play in their community after Playday is over.
Your venue can be adapted to offer opportunities for different kinds of play; the more play opportunities, the better. But beware of activities that are overly structured: the best play projects and events are those that create environments and opportunities that give children the space and permission to enjoy the simple pleasure of playing – and this comes from them, not the organisers.
Planning your Playday event!
We have compiled a quick guide to help you plan your Playday event.
Ideas for Playday! – Some ideas to get the creative juices flowing for when you are planning your playday!
Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, will mark National Play Day 2012 which takes place on Sunday 1st July (individual dates may vary in some counties). The theme for this year’s events is ‘Experiment with Play’.
National Play Day 2012 will be the biggest to date with 26 local authorities across the country taking part this year. A full list of the events is available.