A strategy published by The Highland Council this week sets out an action plan for developing and improving play experiences for children and young people in the Highlands.
Conon Bridge Primary pupils, Abigail and Josh Fraser helped Highland Councillor David Alston and Play Development Officer, Malina MacDonald, the strategy’s author, to launch “All To Play For” by demonstrating child’s play in its most natural way - climbing a tree.
The Play Strategy acknowledges public agency responsibilities to ensure Highlands children can exercise their fundamental human right to play, as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The strategy sets out an action plan devised in partnership with key Highland Council, NHS and Voluntary Organisation personnel. It will meet six key objectives:
• Promoting A Child/Family Friendly Ethos In Highland
• Ensuring Consultation With Children
• Access To Play For All Children
• Incorporating Appropriate Challenge In Play
• Encouraging Outdoor Play
• Encouraging Community Involvement In The Development Of Play Areas
Councillor Alston said: “We know that play positively affects a child’s health in numerous ways, but the amount and quality of play our children experience is being significantly reduced for many reasons, which include perceived ‘stranger danger’, road traffic and concerns about bullying.
“Due to the constant fear of litigation, play equipment is all too often ‘dumbed-down’ to such a degree that children find it boring and seek excitement elsewhere. Worse still they may not seek challenge anywhere and we’re then in danger of producing ‘cotton wool kids’ who are timid, have little resilience, judge risk poorly and underachieve in life as a result. We are all aware of the soaring child obesity rate in Scotland and increasing play opportunity is an ideal solution to get children burning more calories.
“The Highland Play Strategy addresses these concerns and points the way forward to us all to ensure that our children’s rights to play are met.”
Malina MacDonald said: “It’s important to ensure that the right to play is firmly placed in our children’s hands. We must foster in them the independence and confidence to take risks, use their imagination, and consequently become more resilient individuals as a result. Adults should not be afraid to increase the opportunities for free/unsupervised play as evidence shows that children can only benefit.”
The Highland Play Strategy – “All to Play For” can be found on the Integrated Children’s Services website: www.forhighlandschildren.org Copies will also be distributed to all Highland Primaries, pre-school providers and relevant personnel.