Not only do children love to play, play is essential to their emotional, social and physical development. It contributes to them growing up to become fulfilled and healthy adults. Play can also break down social barriers. Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in cultural and artistic activities as stated in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Unfortunately millions of children worldwide are denied the opportunity to play and as a result are unable to experience its many benefits. The problem is particularly evident in India, a situation which recently prompted Family member Butterflies to gather sector experts for a National Symposium on Right to Play.

Play not only helps the mental and physical well-being of an individual but also erodes the boundaries of caste, colour, religion, and gender.” Rita Panicker, Director of Butterflies, explains.

[In India], parental pressure, excessive emphasis on academic performance has diverted children’s attention from play and due to pressure of performance in schools, children have involuntarily withdrawn into their shells.

Other challenges include deplorable facilities in both rural and urban India, or lack of access to existing ones. A research study conducted by Butterflies in 2010 on the status of parks and open spaces in Delhi revealed that even though Delhi has 14,000 parks and open spaces, the majority of them have become inaccessible to children. Another report, from April 2014, highlighted the huge lack of play and recreational areas in many parks in India. Access to inappropriate parks not only denies them of the possibility to play, but it also exposes children to various forms of abuse and danger.

A movement has started to reclaim children’s right to play but more attention is needed. Looking for adequate solutions, the participants of Butterflies’ symposium deliberated and charted a future course of action on the issue. Discussions focused on the existing facilities and the need to make better use of them. It was also noted that there is a need to change habits and behaviours within families to create an environment that encourages children to go out and play.

“We hope our campaign and today’s discourse will highlight this much neglected issue amongst policy makers on the need to have an environment that promotes sports and play among schools, parents and communities.” Rita concludes.