Children's right to play

Children have a right to play, and it’s Play England’s role to promote that right.

This section sets out the international framework for children’s rights that supports the UK’s national legislation and policies.

You may find these useful in thinking about the policy context for children’s play and the impact this can have on other aspects of their lives.

You can also find information about how local groups and organisations can become involved in campaigning for the right to play, including the Charter for Children’s Play and Playday.


The UN Convention on Children’s Rights

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in 1989, spells out the basic human rights to which every child, everywhere, is entitled.

The United Kingdom has been bound by the Convention since 1991.

The Convention sets out in a number of statements, called articles, the rights of all children and young people up to the age of 18. This includes Article 31, the right to engage in play and recreational activities.

Article 31
1. State Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

2. State Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

The expression ‘State Parties’ means those states or countries that are party to the convention.

In addition, there are several other articles that support the right to play:

Article 2:  Non-discrimination
Respect, ensure and take appropriate measures to protect the rights of each child without discrimination of any kind towards the child or their parents.

Article 3: Best interests of the child
In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Child protection and care is necessary for children’s well-being and, taking into account the rights and duties of parents and carers, institutions, services and facilities responsible for children shall conform to relevant care and safety standards.

Article 12: Respect for the views of the child
A child who is capable of forming his or her own views has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with age and maturity.

Article 15: The child’s right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly
Children have the right to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly, within conformity of the law and with regard to the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 19: The child’s right to be protected from harm and abuse
Appropriate protective measures should be in place to protect children from physical or mental harm and abuse whist in the care of parents, guardians or any other person who has care of children.

Article 23: Rights of disabled children
A mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active participation in the community. This includes additional care and assistance where appropriate, free of charge whenever possible.

Article 30: Children of minorities or of indigenous people
The right for children from minority communities to enjoy their own culture, and to practice their own religion and language.


Charter for Children’s Play

Play England’s Charter for Children’s Play sets out the basic principles of what play means for children, and what we should do to support their right to enjoy it.

There are eight charter statements that describe children’s right to play in detail:

  • children have the right to play
  • every child needs time and space to play
  • adults should let children play
  • children should be able to play freely in their local areas
  • children value and benefit from staffed play provision
  • children’s play is enriched by skilled playworkers
  • children need time and space to play at school
  • children sometimes need extra support to enjoy their right to play


A range of materials is available from Play England to promote the charter, including a children’s version, a poster illustrating the charter statements and the Making it Happen implementation guide.

Making it Happen suggests ways for organisations and individuals to use the charter to improve opportunities for play.



Playday is the annual celebration of children's right to play, and is traditionally held on the first Wednesday of August.

On Playday and throughout the summer, thousands of children, young people and communities get out to play at hundreds of locally organised events across the UK. As well as a celebration of children's right to play, Playday is also a campaign that raises awareness about some serious issues affecting children's play. It is a great channel to get attention to your local play causes.

The Playday website is full of information and advice for people who are organising a Playday event, including community groups. The Get organised guide has information on every aspect of coordinating a Playday event, including fundraising, planning, media and how to work in partnership with your community.

For more information, visit the website link on the right. 

Useful resources

Charter for Children’s Play
The Charter for Children’s Play, produced by Play England, outlines eight statements or principles that describe a vision for play.
Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE)
CRAE is an alliance of more than 270 voluntary and statutory organisations committed to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Get organised!
A Playday guide providing information for community groups and others on how to organise a Playday event.
Inclusive Play (Factsheet No.8)
This Children’s Play Information Service factsheet gives an overview of inclusive play, focusing on disabled children. The factsheet looks at the right to play, explores some of the barriers to play, and provides action points for inclusion.
Making it Happen: Implementing the Charter for Children’s Play
A practical Play England guide to implementing the Charter for Children’s Play.
Playday is the annual celebration of the right to play.
United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child
The international human rights convention, agreed by member states, enshrines children’s right to play.