With today’s pressures, play is one of the most neglected privileges of a child, and for this reason, there is a special day dedicated to play - World Play Day - celebrated on 28 May each year in over 40 countries around the world.
Nationally, World Play Day has been observed at various Toy Libraries, ECD Centers, NGO’s and Government Departments for the past five years. Each year has seen a new theme and a new focal point, although the aim is always the same – for children to let go of the stresses of daily life and play.
The theme of the inaugural World Play Day in 2014 was “we create time to play”. In 2015 it was “play is fun”, 2016 focused on “play for all ages”, 2017 saw the theme “sustainable play” take to the stage; and at the heart of 2018 is “free play”.
Vanessa Mentor, the Early Childhood Development expert at Afrika Tikkun, an NGO that focuses on the development of children and young people says: “Play is of the utmost importance for the developing child. It is through play at an early age that children learn to engage with the world around them and interact with the people in their lives.
"It allows them to explore a world where they can develop new competencies, overcome fears and increase their level of confidence. It allows children to use their imagination and creativity, and it assists in developing coordination, reasoning abilities and emotional strength. Physical play also leads to active lifestyles and healthy bodies. This year's theme of 'free play' is very fitting because play time is when children feel the most free. Play time is their time.”
And while play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their kids, undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate and to resolve conflict. When play is undirected children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace and have time to discover their interests and passions.
So, whether you have children, work with them, or consider yourself “a big kid” anyone can celebrate World Play Day on Monday, 28 May. Take your kids to the park, organise a celebration or World Play Day event, and spread the word so that more people are aware of the advantages of play. Regardless of how you decide to celebrate World Play Day, what is important is that everyone has fun no matter theirage, gender, religion, socio-economic status, crisis or disability.
Mentor continues: “Perhaps, even more importantly than the learning benefits of play is that it is a simple joy… a cherished part of childhood… and we all want our kids to have the best upbringings possible.”
“Afrika Tikkun organises a special day for all the children from our five Centres of Excellence across the country on World Play Day, and we have some amazing partners that help us create the most memorable experiences for our kids. This year we are partnering with the Lego Foundation, Sesame Workshop, Play Africa, Cotlands and TREE-ecd to offer all Afrika Tikkun youth extraordinary learning opportunities and a full day of fun,” she concludes.
* For more information on Afrika Tikkun and their initiatives call 011 325 5914, email [email protected] or visit www.afrikatikkun.org.