Play policy aims to put fun back in children’s lives

CHILDREN, some as young as three, have told a government agency: “We want to have fun.”

Adults, it has emerged, do not appreciate the importance of play in children’s lives. Increased traffic and perceived stranger danger are just some of the factors which result in parents becoming increasingly reluctant to allow children to play unsupervised.

And the country has more than twice as many golf courses as children’s playgrounds.

The first steps in reversing the current trends starts today with the launch of Ireland’s first national play policy.

The new policy was prepared by the National Children's Office at the request of a Cabinet committee headed by the Minister for Children Brian Lenihan.

Nearly 2,500 children ranging in age from three to 18 years responded to a consultation process to assist the National Children's Strategy.

They expressed concerns at the shortage of safe public play spaces, lack of ring-fenced funding for play and poorly developed public awareness of the value of play.

The lack of play and recreation facilities emerged as the most common concern by children from all geographical locations and socioeconomic groups.

According to the National Children’s Office, an underlying thread in the 2,488 responses was the belief that adults do not appreciate the importance of play.

The objective of the policy, to be launched by Mr Lenihan today, is to plan for an expansion in public play facilities.

A survey carried out by the National Children's Office discovered there were 168 public playgrounds with fixed equipment owned and managed by local authorities. By comparison, there were approximately 405 golf courses in the country.

The right of the child to engage in play and recreational activities is recognised by article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Changes in urban areas have resulted in a decreasingly child-friendly environment. Increased traffic and fears over safety have resulted in parents becoming increasingly reluctant to allow children to play outside their own homes.

Children and families along with voluntary and community groups will be involved in the implementation of the new policy.

A total of eight government departments will also play a major role along with local authorities and state agencies.

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