Play for Health

“Investing in children’s play is one of the most important things we can do to improve children’s health and wellbeing in Scotland.”

Professor Sir Harry Burns, Former Chief Medical Officer Scotland

Play builds health and wellbeing

To a child, play is about having fun, but to society it is much more.  Play is essential to healthy development from birth to adulthood, contributing to the capacity for learning, resilience and the development of physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills.  With improved health and educational outcomes come clear economic benefits.

“Play and recreation is essential to the health and well-being of children. Play promotes the development of creativity, imagination, self-confidence, self-efficacy, as well as physical, social, cognitive and emotional strength and skills. 

Research evidence highlights that playing is also central to children’s spontaneous drive for development, and that it performs a significant role in the development of the brain, particularly in the early years. 

Play and recreation facilitate children’s capacities to negotiate, regain emotional balance, resolve conflicts and make decisions. 

Through their involvement in play and recreation, children learn by doing; they explore and experience the world around them; experiment with new ideas, roles and experiences and in so doing, learn to understand and construct their social position within the world.”

General comment 17, UNCRC

 Life-enhancing daily play for all

“We want all of Scotland’s children and young people to have the opportunity to experience the joys of movement, and the social, emotional and physical wellbeing that comes through play.”

A More Active Scotland, Scottish Government

To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more according to WHO Guidelines on Physical Activity for children under 5 years of age, published in 2019. “Achieving health for all means doing what is best for health right from the beginning of people’s lives,” says WHO Director-General.

Parents who want their children to grow up healthy should create time and space for their kids to play. The WHO experts recommend toddlers should be playing and doing other physical activities at least three hours per day.

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines 2019 state that since their first joint report in 2011 Stay Active Stay Healthy, the evidence to support the health benefits of regular physical activity for all groups has become more compelling.

In children and young people, regular physical activity is associated with improved learning and attainment, better mental health and cardiovascular fitness, also contributing to healthy weight status.  Physical activity is not just a health issue. It brings people together to enjoy shared activities and contributes to building strong communities whilst supporting the economy to grow.

“If physical activity were a drug, we would refer to it as a miracle cure, due to the great many illnesses it can prevent and help treat.”

Physical Activity Guidelines 2019


  • Play Well Pack

    Play Well Pack

    Play Scotland and Save the Children are delighted to launch the Play Well pack, which is packed full of suggestions, ideas and tips to support your child’s play and learning at home.
    pdf (3.15 MB)

Useful Resources