Additional Publications

The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) applies to all children and young people under 18. The aim of the UNCRC is to recognise children’s rights and ensure that children grow up in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.

The United Nations on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a Convention which has 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life and set out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. It also explains how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights.

The UNCRC is also the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.  All UN member states except for the United States of America have ratified the Convention.

Since 16th December 1991, when the treaty came into force in the UK, every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights. These include:

  • the right to life, survival and development;
  • the right to have their views respected, and to have their best interests considered at all times;
  • the right to a name and nationality, freedom of expression, and access to information concerning them;
  • the right to live in a family environment or alternative care, and to have contact with both parents wherever possible;
  • health and welfare rights, including rights for disabled children, the right to health and health care, and social security;
  • the right to education, leisure, culture and the arts;
  • special protection for refugee children, children in the juvenile justice system, children deprived of their liberty and children suffering economic, sexual or other forms of exploitation.

The rights included in the convention apply to all children and young people, with no exceptions.
(extract Together Scotland)

Article 31

Play Scotland works to deliver and promote Article 31 in Scotland.

Every child has the right to relax, play and
take part in a wide range of cultural and
artistic activities.

Article 31 Full text

 The full text of the article can be found below:

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

A summary of the full UNCRC articles can be found here.

A child-friendly summary of the full UNCRC articles can be found here.

What is Play?

Play comes in many forms. It can be active, passive, solitary, independent, assisted, social, exploratory, educational or just for fun. Moreover, it can happen indoors or outdoors, it can be structured, creative, messy, entirely facilitated by the imagination or can involve using the latest gadget. What is important is that all children and young people have the freedom to choose how and when they play.

Play can help babies and young children learn to move, share, negotiate, take on board others’ points of view and cultivate many more skills. It remains equally important throughout infancy, childhood, the teenage years through adolescence, and beyond into adulthood and at all ages, stages and abilities.

Many people say it’s a child’s ‘job’ to play and the whole of society has a role in ensuring we can support children to behave as children, minimising the pressure on them to grow up too quickly. We consider play as the primary tool for addressing this challenge, through allowing children and young people to experience fun, joy and laughter in a way that is important to them.

The last three decades have seen significant changes in the way we live. Increasingly busy lifestyles can often be the reason for a lack of play opportunities or uptake. We know that parents and carers feel pressure for their children to have the newest toys and the latest games consoles and regularly attend structured activities such as dance classes and swimming lessons. They often feel they need to be seen to be ‘as good as other parents’ and that this is primarily achieved through spending money.

Children do not need expensive toys to be able to play!


Why does play matter

To a child play is about having fun. To society it’s so much more. Children’s play is crucial to Scotland’s wellbeing, socially, economically and environmentally. The importance of play in children and young people’s daily lives and to healthy development has become increasingly recognised in recent years. A growing body of evidence supports the view that playing, throughout childhood, is not only an innate behaviour but also contributes to quality of life, sense of wellbeing and is a key element in effective learning, thereby developing their physical, cognitive, emotional and social skills. ‘The research suggests that, from the first stages of growth through to adulthood, play has a central role in developing strong attachments. Play between caregiver and infant helps establish the neural pathways for developing wider attachments with other children and adults’ (Lester and Russell, 2007). The type of environment for play is also important, having an impact on children and young people’s experiences, choices and relationships, both with other people and with the environment itself. In particular, outdoor play especially in natural spaces is beneficial and provides experiences which cannot be replicated indoors. Children and young people need adults to encourage and facilitate their play, whilst not inhibiting their opportunities for freedom and choice. This means that everyone involved in planning, designing and managing local streets, open spaces and parks such as early learning and childcare staff, youth workers, teachers and play practitioners, parents, carers and local residents, particularly those willing to offer their services as volunteers, can all have a major impact on children and young people’s play opportunities.
(Extract Scotland’s Play Strategy)