The Right to Play

A child’s right to play is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).


On the 16th January Children’s Right to Play was incorporated into Scots law. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Act incorporates the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into the law in Scotland. The full provisions will be enacted later in the year Legislation- UNCRC Incorporation Scotland Act

Today we are celebrating, alongside the children’s sector, our success in helping to build a world-leading legal policy framework for children’s rights and right to play in Scotland.  However, we still have a lot of work to do and many challenges to be overcome to deliver our vision for every child in Scotland. STATE of PLAY in SCOTLAND 2023

Play Scotland was formed in 1998 with the aim of making the child’s right to play a reality in Scotland. 25 years on and our work remains grounded in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and ‘the need to create time and space for children to engage in spontaneous play, recreation and creativity, and to promote societal attitudes that support and encourage such activity’ UNCRC General Comment 17


What is the UNCRC?

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. These articles 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.

Article 31

Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines a right to play.

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

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.