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UN First International Play Day: Work More, Play More, Improve More

Statistics show that “Playtime outside used to be a daily routine for past generations, with nearly three-quarters playing outside multiple times a week. Today, that number has dropped dramatically, with only one in four children enjoying that same freedom”.

While growing up in basic school, as soon as the bell rang, “BREAK TIME!” whether the teacher liked it or not we shot up from our seats and chanted, “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY!”.

Sometimes, we would add, “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day, little children want to play. Rain, rain, go away!” For some of us games period was our favourite period on the times table. So, in early life, we were taught the importance of play.

In adult life, the challenges are such that play becomes an extravagant activity; there are so many commitments here and there to fulfil that there seems never to be time to play.

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Statistics show that “Playtime outside used to be a daily routine for past generations, with nearly three-quarters playing outside multiple times a week. Today, that number has dropped dramatically, with only one in four children enjoying that same freedom”.

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According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “Play is more than just fun and games. Its a universal language and right that transcends borders and backgrounds, uniting us all. Play builds strong communities, fosters national pride, and most importantly, lets children be children”.

“Play fosters resilience, creativity and innovation in individuals. For children in particular, play helps build relationships and improves control, overcoming trauma and problem-solving. It helps children develop the cognitive, physical, creative, social, and emotional skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world,” UNICEF says.

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To ensure that children across the globe play, the United Nations (UN) has set aside June 11 as the International Day of Play.

“Play is a right, not everyone can enjoy. Many children across the globe are deprived of the right to play. Limiting play can negatively impact a child’s development. Play is not limited to having fun, today it’s a tool to help children develop,” UNICEF says.

Though play is a critical component of a child’s growth and development, 41% of children had been stopped from playing outside by either their parents or other adults, especially their neighbours. However, restricting children from play directly impedes their well-being and development.

“Play-based learning is an effective approach to engage students actively in the learning process. It makes learning more enjoyable and relevant which motivates them and retain information,” a UNICEF report shows.

Play is not only good for children; it is an essential source of relaxation and stimulation for adults.

In adult life, the challenges are such that play often becomes a luxury we cannot afford. There are so many commitments to fulfil that there seems never to be time to play.

According to researchers, while play is crucial for a child’s development, it is beneficial for people of all ages as it can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you; additionally, it can also make work more productive and pleasurable.

In adult life, play is a time to forget about work and commitments, and to be social in an unstructured, creative way.

To ensure maximum benefit from play, it must involve at least one other person, away from the sensory overload of electronic gadgets.

Playing with one’s romantic partner, friends, co-workers, and children is a good way to re-fill your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.

Benefits associated with play include stress relief, improvement of brain function, stimulating the mind and boosting creativity, improving relationships and your connection to others, and, keeping one to feel young and energetic.

Play is such an important issue in the lives of people that in marking the International Day of Play, the overjoyed Education Minister, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, wrote on his Facebook page commending the World Bank, UNICEF, Right to Play, Sabre Education, Lively Minds and other organizations who have supported agencies, such as the Ghana Education Service, National Teaching Council, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, and district officials in their efforts to make play-based learning address educational challenges in our early childhood education policy and kindergarten curriculum.

“Their efforts have significantly contributed to the progress we see today in our foundational learning drive. Together, we can create a world where every child has the opportunity, to learn and grow through the power of play”, Dr Adutwum noted.

The UNICEF Ghana Chief also admonished the Ministry of Education to incorporate play-based activities in curriculum lessons and continually improve momentum around it.

At UNICEF Ghana we strongly believe in the power of learning through play, and you can see this in our programming with the Ministry of Education (MoE)/Ghana EducService (GES) in our schools – whether it’s play-based learning in the Differentiated Learning Plus (DL+) approach in primary schools or supporting STEM through Minecraft Education games in secondary school. It’s been wonderful to see global momentum grow around play-based learning, and we loved the opportunity to celebrate the first International Day of Play here in Ghana today with MoE and GES colleagues,” On behalf of the world body, the UNICEF Ghana Chief, Christin McConnell, said.

Now that we know the benefits of play, we should all endeavour to make time for it in order to improve our lives. As they say, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy!”

The UN Calls on all to play more as the world marked its first International Play Day on June 11, 2024.

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