National Child Day is celebrated on Nov. 20 each year.
National Child Day has been celebrated across Canada since 1993 to commemorate the United Nations’ adoption of two documents centred on children’s rights: the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child on Nov. 20, 1959, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on Nov. 20, 1989.
By ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, Canada made a commitment to ensure that all children are treated with dignity and respect. This commitment includes the opportunity for children to have a voice, be protected from harm and be provided with their basic needs and every opportunity to reach their full potential.
Celebrating National Child Day is about celebrating children as active participants in their own lives and in communities, as active citizens who can and should meaningfully contribute to decision-making. In celebration of National Child Day in the Comox Valley, Colleen Friendship, early childhood educator, reminds us of the critical importance of children’s play.
Children need to play. Play is a natural experience for most children; this is changing for young children. Scheduled classes and play dates are children’s experience today. The influence of screen time has affected the natural opportunity for play for many children. Advertising has given parents the message screen time is good for children, however, many child development experts would disagree.
How does play fit in with scheduled activities? How are screen time games playful? Play, by definition, is an activity freely chosen. It is self directed, with no prescribed outcome. When children have opportunities to play, really play, they are becoming confident, problem solvers. When children play with other children they are learning life skills, communicating their ideas, developing empathy. Children sharing creative experiences develop opportunities to bring their ideas to life. Play supports children’s mental well-being. As they play they help to make sense of feelings and emotions. When children are given time, opportunity and materials to play they can practise new developmental skills. These skills are necessary to support a child’s development and mental health.
According to Dr. Peter Gray, the decline of play in children can be linked to increase in depression and anxiety in children. Play is a powerful tool to support children’s understanding of the world, allows them to feel in control.
Have you heard children say, ‘OK, you be the mom and I am going to be the big sister?’ This is children taking charge while playing. Stuart Brown links lack of play to a decrease in creativity and problem solving, a necessary skill throughout life.
As we get ready to celebrate National Child Day be playful with your child. Let them be the leaders in play. Look for those opportunities to play with boxes, water, sand, crayons, blocks, books. Ask your child what would they like to play, or better yet watch your child play and ask if you can join in. When we join in play and let them be the leaders we can have fun. Play and being playful is good for our well-being.