General Comment No. 7

Indicator Set 16: Play, Leisure and Rest Opportunities for Young Children

Play is defined as an activity that diverts or amuses or stimulates the mind. It can be structured or unstructured, solitary or in a group, for education and/or for fun. Young children need opportunities to explore their world, to play, and to learn through playing. Evidence shows that play, both alone and in a group, is important in early child development. General Comment No. 7 para. 34 addresses the shortage of opportunities for creative and challenging play in homes and communities (for example, in urban environments, or for young girls overburdened with domestic obligations). This indicator is intended to assess progress under obligations laid down in article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It raises questions about young children’s leisure and play time as a distinct activity. It also discusses play as a key element of sports and recreation activities in preschool and school settings. In addition to play as a distinct right and vital activity, this indicator calls on obligations, under article 12 of the CRC, to facilitate child participation—in this case the participation of young children in the planning of suitable play spaces. Active lifestyles, including stimulating play, sports and recreation as well as free leisure time, are viewed by the UNCRC as important opportunities for the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of young children. They are therefore central to the principle of the young child as an active social participant (GC7 para. 2) and rights holder (GC7 para. 3). Particular to this indicator are issues of discrimination of marginalised or excluded populations (CRC article 2). These include the question of gendered differences in access to play and leisure opportunities; for example, young girls overburdened with domestic duties. Note: Even when children have enough time to play, they also need time for leisure and rest. Time for all of these activities needs to be allocated by caregivers and/or duty bearers.

Key Question: With respect to articles 2, 12 and 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, what measures are in place to provide for the young child’s right to play through access to adequate and appropriate play opportunities and spaces, to participate in the design of such spaces, and to challenge discrimination against excluded populations?