IPA Canada National PlayDay – August 4, 2021

Play – the Heartbeat of Childhood

Play is the heartbeat of childhood. At home, in the neighbourhood, at the beach, in community parks and school grounds children embrace the opportunity of making their own fun through play. On August 4, join the International Play Association (IPA) Canada and create your own National PlayDay event.

IPA Canada’s National PlayDay is a celebration of wonder, curiosity, discovery and adventure. It’s all about what children do best. Intuitively children know that play is a renewable source of joy and fun but of course its impact is far broader. In fact, play is one of the defining characteristics of our humanity.

Play resonates with children everywhere. Child-directed play has a universal appeal. It is a heady expression of freedom whenever children are granted the space and time to shape their own activities unencumbered by ongoing adult supervision.

The ‘right to play’ is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The General Comments document on article 31 provides additional details that speak to the connection between play and well-being and affirms its critical role and relevance in an increasingly complex world.

Research demonstrates that play exerts a profound influence throughout childhood shaping how we learn, how we express ourselves and how we assess risk and opportunity. Studies from a variety of disciplines reveal that play nurtures children’s physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual development. It is a foundational activity that helps kids interact with and make sense of the world around them.

Play can help children develop resilience and cope with mental health concerns, such as anxiety, that were on the increase during the first wave of the pandemic. For more information about play in times of crisis, free downloadable resources published by IPA World IPA Canada’s international governing body are available here with translations in Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Thai and Turkish.

IPA Canada’s goals are to increase play’s visibility, create greater awareness of the pressing need to get children playing more and encourage parents and communities to be strong agents of play.

There is evidence that change is needed. In Canada, ‘active play’ gets an F in the latest (2020) ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. In practice this means that only 21% of 5- to 11-year-olds engage in active play for more than 1.5 hours per day on average. Two years earlier, active play was given a D. We are moving in the wrong direction.

Canada is not alone. Higher income countries are witnessing a declining incidence of outdoor play and a decrease in independent mobility for kids. These are notable societal shifts that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recently concluded series of national consultations led by IPA Canada confirmed that there is a growing understanding of play’s role as an important contributor to the healthy development of children. Our discussions with parents, early childhood educators and municipal government representatives are helping to inform new initiatives linked to play leadership and provision as well as the development of resource materials focusing on children’s right to play.

IPA Canada benefits from the support and experience of the IPA international member network. Here in Canada, many accomplished groups and organizations are associated with children’s play. It truly takes a village to make a difference. Other national advocates include The Lawson Foundation, the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, Outdoor Play Canada and the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada.

There is no time like the present to get involved, lend a hand and have some fun working toward creating the conditions that will help play flourish in our homes and communities. Here are some simple ideas to consider and possibly incorporate into IPA Canada National PlayDay events:

  • explore the neighbourhood to discover playful spaces
  • draw on childhood memories of favourite play places and activities for inspiration
  • invite friends to play at home or at a local park
  • in busy households, schedule time for play with children and/or for independent play
  • explore play ideas and resources online

For more information on IPA Canada visit our website and download your copy of the IPA Canada National PlayDay poster and guide.

IPA Canada is a not-for-profit national organization whose mandate is to protect and promote the child’s right to play.

Connect with International Play Association (IPA) Canada

Twitter: @ipa_canada
Facebook: @InternationalPlayCanada

Statement: Play in the time of COVID-19

Play is a fundamental necessity for children. We know from research and practice that play nurtures a child’s physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual development. During times of crisis, children benefit from play as a means to explore their emotions as well as to make sense of and cope with environmental anxiety. Through this process they develop resilience and build self-confidence which will help them navigate life’s challenges.

This spring Canadians are escalating the fight against a significant global challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic. When we listen to our public health authorities and governments we make our neighbourhoods safer and become part of the solution. This reduces risk to ourselves, our children, loved ones and the broader community.

Our focus on defeating the virus means some typical play enablers are no longer available. For example, numerous provinces explicitly recommend against play dates and sleepovers. Some municipalities across the country are closing playgrounds and indoor playspaces temporarily. Parks are being closed by the federal government as well as some provinces and municipalities. We encourage you to consult official online statements from your provincial and local health authorities for up to date recommendations in your area.

Keep informed of the latest guidelines via your local health authority

When we add social distancing, limited numbers at public gatherings and self-isolation to the mix of recommendations, it’s clear that it’s no longer business as usual for play. With extended school closures and many parents teleworking or on a work hiatus we are experiencing huge shifts in our daily lives. Play needs to be a part of that shift.

Play is not just a renewable source of fun – it helps kids make sense of the world around them particularly in times of uncertainty. Its impact is so significant that the ‘right to play’ is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

At IPA, each of us is doing her/his best to play and support play on a daily basis as well as to be alert and open to playful opportunities. We invite you to do the same and share your best play ideas and adventures within your networks.

We have a bias to outdoor play at IPA Canada but we know that the outdoor focus may not be possible for some with the measures in place to combat COVID-19. Play is great wherever it takes place! For some good ideas and play options, please read this post by UK play advocates and friends, Tim Gill and Penny Wilson – Play in the time of coronavirus (over 1,300 shares on Facebook).

Thank you to all Canadians involved in the fight against COVID-19! Together our collective actions are making the difference in our communities.

For a pdf of this IPA Canada Statement click here.

Media inquiries – ipac@ipacanada.org