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Jun 11, 2024 / 15:51

Play is life changing: UNICEF

The joint effort represents a significant step forward in the goal of safeguarding and giving play a high priority so that every child can benefit from it and realize their full potential.

“Play is not just fun, it’s life-changing.” Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Vietnam, talked about the importance of playing for children on the occasion of the first-ever International Day of Play observed on June 11, 2024. 

Rana Flowers, the UNICEF Representative in Vietnam (in blue shirt), at Play Day for Children held in Hanoi on June 8 to celebrate International Day of Play (June 11). Photos: UNICEF/The Hanoi Times 

It’s a significant milestone in efforts to preserve, promote, and prioritize playing so that all people, especially children, can reap the rewards and thrive to their full potential.

Play is essential to a good education, to strong brain development, to the learning of “soft skills” for the future world of work, and to positive mental health, Rana Flowers shared with The Hanoi Times.

“Creativity, innovation, problem-solving, working with others – are learned most effectively through play. For this reason, education systems in many countries, including Vietnam, have introduced participatory learning approaches that promote social and emotional learning,” said Ms. Flowers.

While many skills come from play, she said, sadly, not all children have the chance to play freely. Millions work instead, some parents don’t allow time for play, and many lack safe spaces for playtime. That’s why the activities in Vietnam are so important: “We’re celebrating the right of all children to play!”

 For the first time, the Day of Play on June 11 is added to the list of global annual observances recognized by the United Nations.

Play helps children develop their minds, bodies, and emotions. It’s also a great way for parents and caregivers to bond with their children. “Play makes a better world, brings children together, connects them with others, and builds friendships,” Rana stated. 

She stressed the importance of play for children, saying it isn’t just about fun. It’s about a promise. “We promise to champion the right to play for all children. We’ll work to create safe spaces, provide resources, and encourage playful interactions.” 

 Rana Flowers joins the games with the children on the play day. 

Vietnam’s response to International Day of Play

In celebration of International Day of Play, a vibrant Play Day for Children was held last weekend at the Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (the Temple of Literature) in Hanoi.

The inclusive event, co-organized by UNICEF, Think Playground, and the Culture and Science Center of Van Mieu, was designed for kids of all abilities and backgrounds and emphasized how important play is to kids’ development.

In this regard, Rana highly appreciated joint efforts among Vietnamese stakeholders to provide children with better conditions to play. “We’re joining a global movement pushed for by the Government of Vietnam to celebrate something fundamental to every child’s life: play!”

The event displayed 31 vibrant paintings selected from more than 8,000 submissions in a UNICEF-organized painting contest for children aged 6-15 to envision their ideal inclusive and eco-friendly playground.

“Our communities need to be child friendly for all children, especially those with a disability, and one step is to create safe space, such as the beautiful playground for all,” Rana noted. 

 Representatives participate in the play day, including those from UNICEF, the Culture and Science Center of Van Mieu, and Think Playground.  

Speaking at the event, Le Xuan Kieu, Director of the Culture and Science Center of Van Mieu, said: “This event is especially noteworthy because it marks both the beginning of children’s summer vacation in 2024 and a significant milestone in our efforts to recognize and promote the value of play in children’s holistic development.”

Meanwhile, Chu Kim Duc, Director of Think Playgrounds Social Enterprise, which has created more than 240 friendly and creative playgrounds for children across Vietnam over the past 10 years, expressed her appreciation for the collaboration and support given by government agencies, partner organizations, and local communities in their efforts to promote children’s rights to play.

She emphasized that the launch of the International Day of Play raises awareness of children’s right to play. “It also encourages investment from the state, private sector, and social enterprises in the creation of safe, inclusive, and creative play spaces for all children.”

This global initiative highlights the significance and remarkable benefits of play in promoting a child’s physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. 

 Children are eager to join the games. 

Vietnam’s efforts in ensuring children’s rights to play

The right to play for children is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which specifically addresses the right of children to play, underscores the importance of play and recreational activities in children’s lives and emphasizes that children should have the opportunity to engage in play freely and without discrimination.

Children’s right to play and recreation is stipulated in Article 17 of Vietnam 2016 Law on Children. According to this clause, kids are entitled to play and recreation, as well as fair access to age-appropriate cultural, artistic, sports, and physical education activities.

Governments, policymakers, educators, parents, and communities have a responsibility to uphold and promote the right to play for all children. This includes providing safe and inclusive spaces for play, ensuring access to play materials and resources, and recognizing the value of play in children's overall well-being and development.

It is the duty of communities, educators, parents, legislators, and governments to protect and advance every child’s right to play. This entails creating inclusive and safe play areas, guaranteeing that playthings and resources are accessible, and appreciating the importance of play for kids’ overall development and well-being.

The UN General Assembly adopted the resolution in March 2024 as a result of significant efforts spearheaded by 13 UN Member States: Vietnam, Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, El Salvador, Indonesia, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kenya. The United Nations recognizes the value of playing for children’s development and well-being by establishing the International Day of Play. 

 Good engagement in drawing. 

Celebration of the First International Day of Play in Vietnam

Vietnam celebrates the event with a series of activities, including the Children’s Drawing Contest launched on May 7 by UNICEF for children 6-15 years old in six provinces across Vietnam.

The contest is part of UNICEF’s communication campaign to promote the importance of play in child development and advocate for children’s right to engage in playful activities.

After two weeks, UNICEF received over 8,000 submissions from children of all backgrounds, including ethnic minority children and children with disabilities. As a result, 31 paintings were selected to display at UNICEF’s events to celebrate the first-ever International Day of Play.

The inaugural celebration of International Day of Play took place at the Green One UN House in Hanoi on May 30. Hosted by UNICEF, participants included representatives from the UN agencies, embassies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the private sector, mass organizations, and a LEGO delegation. 

 Play has been proven to help children tap their full potential. 

Additionally, a group of kids will discuss the value they place on play and the environment.

It celebrated the cooperative efforts of numerous stakeholders involved in the importance of play in children’s development. It is a testament to the commitment of various sectors, including governments, private enterprises, and international organizations, to promote children's rights and well-being.

Meanwhile, Play Day for Children is dedicated to children and aims to foster a sense of inclusivity and heighten awareness of children’s rightful access to play.

It gathered hundreds of children from various backgrounds, including those with disabilities and those in vulnerable situations, along with their families.

The three main motifs of the event are nature, culture, and inclusivity, which are designed in a variety of interactive games and competitions along with recreational activities. 

Children attending the event will have the opportunity to explore the recently renovated Thanh Giong inclusive playground, which was made possible by UNICEF and the New Zealand Embassy. The remodeled playground, which offers a play area open to all kids, represents the event’s dedication to inclusivity.

 The painting exhibition is one of the day's highlights.