Sports and play has the power to stir imaginations and raise spirits, fight illnesses and challenge age old mindsets, bridge divides and foster friendships, test human potential and drive human achievement. When children don’t play or indulge in physical activity, they lose more than the simple joy of having fun in childhood; they lose valuable skills that playing sports can bring to their lives; and they lose the chance to explore, learn, thrive and grow into well rounded adults. For every child that doesn’t fulfil his right to play and sports, our nation falls a step short in achieving its development goals. Here’s a listicle of children’s issues that get striked out when children play. #playmatters
1. Learning through play
Children and adolescents benefit tremendously from physical activity. Schools are an ideal place to provide opportunities for sport, recreation and play. In turn, play improves the quality of education by developing the whole child, not just their academic capabilities. Research indicates a positive correlation between sport and increased attendance levels, improved behaviour and a boost in academic achievement. Free play improves concentration in the classroom and physical activity doubles the probability of better achievement in language and math. Combined with a school curriculum, play and sport are a must for quality education.
2. Play for Health
Regular participation in sport and play provides many health benefits- physical, mental and social well being . Not only does it have a direct impact on physical fitness but it also instils healthy lifestyle choices among children and adolescents such as refraining from alcohol, tobacco and other intoxicants and adopting safe sexual behaviour; it reduces anxiety, enhances psychological health, builds trusting relationships with peers and mentors and promotes adoption of healthy behaviours. Promoting physical activity from a young age can contribute to improving public health on a large scale.
3. Girls and Goal posts.
Given that sports is traditionally a male domain, girls’ participation in sport itself challenges gender stereotypes, breaking deep-rooted attitudes held by families & communities. Sport provides girls with safe spaces to assemble, enjoy unrestricted movement and freedom of expression; it hones their skills in communication, leadership, negotiation and in building supportive networks; playing alongside boys increases self-esteem, confidence and generally improves their agency in making informed choice. Girls participating in sports are less likely to imbibe substances, enter violent relationships or become unwillingly pregnant. Sports and play also provides a space to openly discuss and dialogue on tabooed topics and empower girls by addressing larger social issues through sport. Girls who are sidelined claim their place in society.
4. Play for peace
In times of conflict and emergencies, sport and play can provide children and adolescents with a sense of hope and normalcy. It helps traumatized children learn to cope, heal, develop trust, and gain resilience.Sports and play creates a safe environment to learn in the absence of formal school structures. It also acts as a therapeutic tool for children to address damage done due to constant exposure to violence, decrease aggressiveness, anxiety, fear and negative behaviours. Through sports and play children are encouraged to rebuild a normal life.
5. Levelling the playfield
Sport and play can help to break down barriers and promote inclusion of children who are often left on the sidelines. It fosters participation and social inclusion by enhancing individual capacity, developing one’s strengths despite physical and mental challenges, reaching children that are often excluded and discriminated against. Evidence of groups working with excluded communities suggest that sport helps children with disabilities, out of school children and adolescent girls gain confidence that they can then apply to other aspects of their lives. When the focus is on scoring a goal or shooting a basket, children’s abilities become important, not their disabilities.
6. Practice for life
Sports and play facilitates the development of life skills needed to translate knowledge, attitude and intentions into actual behaviour. It assists adolescents develop important skills, such as problem-solving, decision-making, communication and critical thinking. It helps them handle peer pressure and cope with emotions and stress and gain much needed resilience as they transition into adulthood building their confidence in themselves and their future.
7. Play to participate and integrate
Sport in its most basic form encourages participation. When children fulfil their right to play or sport they also fulfil their right to participation. On the playground, a child is encouraged to share his opinion and views, take a stand, interact with peers from different backgrounds, work as a team and integrate into a social group. Active participation in sports and play instills a sense of belonging, acceptance and achievement, while also evolving a child’s capacity to recognise their role in their own lives.