International Day of Play

11 June 2024

If there was a simple way to help our children be their best, stay healthy and feel good, learn stuff and get creative, fix problems and feel brave, wouldn’t you invest in it?

And what if on top of that for children in hospital, there is a way to reduce the number of attempts to deliver treatment, the need for sedation and the need for repeat appointments? Which also means a healthier, happier child who is involved in their own healing and recovery?

Well there is a simple way, it’s play.

On International Day of Play we are joining the campaign’s call to action because we believe every child can reach their full potential, with the time, space and access to play – even when they are in hospital.

But we also know that our healthcare system can be a barrier play. In fact our own research shows that the trauma of being in hospital can be bad for children’s health.

The good news is there is a solution. We all need to stand up for play. So to mark International Day of Play we are launching our Manifesto for Play. We are calling on the next government to ensure that all children in the UK have their right to play protected and provided for when they are receiving healthcare, in or out of hospital.

In our Manifesto we have 5 clear calls to action:

  1. Health play services to be available seven days a week.
  2. New guidance and standards for health play services across the NHS.
  3. Training in play for all children’s health professionals.
  4. Play to be integrated into the design and commissioning of all children’s services.
  5. A new Cabinet Minister for Children to work closely with the Department of Health and Social Care to provide a joint lead on children’s play as an essential part of the government’s long-term strategy for children’s health and wellbeing.

We know that currently many hospitals don’t have health play professionals. Where they do exist, current play provision is often only from Monday to Friday and from nine to five. Many children who are regular inpatients have to cope with long hospital stays or sudden trips to A&Es. Even where health play services exist in hospitals, the lack of play in the evenings and at weekends means children and their families are often at risk of not getting the support they need.

One mum, whose 6-year-old son has recently completed three years of treatment for leukaemia told us how her son “… was terrified when anyone came into his hospital room because he thought they were going to hurt him. It was really hard to watch.”

In stressful situations like these and like so many that we hear about, it is play and the health play professionals that “… calm him down… gave him a chance to be a kid again.”  

Its’s time to remember the importance of play and it’s time to listen to what children say.

Hospitals are scary and play makes it better.

We need to protect children’s play as part of a healthy and happy childhood and especially when they are ill. Play is not a nice to have it is a fundamental right and it makes life better for everyone.

Please sign our manifesto pledge and stand up for the importance of play, especially for children in hospital who need it the most.

Thank you