In early 2012, UNICEF’s Bangladesh and Haiti Country Offices began to test P.L.A.Y., an innovative play and recreation pilot project that brings portable play activities and equipment to extremely vulnerable and deprived children in emergency context. Mobile playground units consisting of giant blue foam blocks empower children to influence and shape the space around them and encourage them to dream and create through dramatic, constructive, and gross motor play activities.
Research has shown that play has a critical role in supporting children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development that will serve throughout their lives. However, forces beyond any child’s control (disaster, conflict, and poverty) deny millions of children this basic birthright recognized by the United Nations (Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). The chance to play freely as an ordinary child is especially critical for children who are witness to trauma, violence, and deprivation as well as for children with disabilities. For these children, play has the power to act as a tool for rebuilding lives by reinforcing self-confidence, allowing them to process thoughts and feelings, and contributing to their becoming adults capable of compromise, sharing, conciliation, and tolerance – all attributes that are key to building a more peaceful and prosperous world for future generations. In an increasingly complex world, there is also a growing need to be creative, innovative and collaborative—all skills cultivated through play.
For all of these reasons, bringing opportunities for play into the life of every child is an essential element of UNICEF’s global programming for children.
P.L.A.Y. brought ten playgrounds to schools in Haiti, and twenty to Child Friendly Spaces, orphanages and Child Development Centres in Bangladesh. The project is currently being assessed to determine the suitability and positive impact on children living in communities recovering from emergencies, and to demonstrate how playground materials contribute to improve children’s learning, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
Maki Wennmann (Ms.)
UNICEF Education Section