Play and Recreation
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs oversees the implementation of both the National Play and National Recreation Policies by Local Authorities.
Importance of Play & Recreation
Speaking at a conference on Play and Recreation in Dublin Castle in September 2012, Minister Frances Fitzgerald stated that “promoting and supporting play and recreation is a not a soft policy issue. Instead it is a key policy response to improving outcomes for children and supporting children’s physical, emotional and social development. Play and recreation is integral to children’s lives.”
Key findings on the benefits of play and recreation are emerging from Growing Up in Ireland - the National Longitudinal Study of Children.
A report on ‘Overweight And Obesity Among 9-Year-Olds’ published in November 2011 found that that 26% of nine year old children were found to be overweight or obese. It will not surprise any of you here that children who exercised infrequently (less than three days in the last fortnight) were about three times more likely to be overweight or obese than those who exercised on a regular basis (greater than nine days in the last fortnight).
A report on ‘Influences on 9-Year-Old's Learning: Home, School and Community’, published in January 2012, outlines how access to appropriate structured and unstructured play and recreation activities can have a real and lasting impact on the academic and educational achievements of children.
LAPRN / National Play Day / National Recreation Week
In February 2012, Minister Fitzgerald established the Local Authority Play and Recreation Network (LAPRN).
This national network has been established to introduce a more coordinated and interagency approach to achieving the main goals of the play and recreation policies at both national and local level. An early achievement of the network has been the development, expansion and branding of National Play Day & National Recreation Week which now take place annually in Local Authority areas across the country in July and October of each year respectively. Targeted grants are provided to Local Authorities by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to encourage participation across the Local Authority network.
In July 2012, National Play Day 2012 saw the largest ever participation with 26 Councils staging popular events on or around the dedicated date. National Recreation Week 2012 saw all counties in Ireland involved, for the first time ever. Click image for a list of all National Recreation week 2012 events.
Child Friendly Cities and Towns
The national network of Childcare Committees is becoming active in this policy area. Minister Frances Fitzgerald delivered the opening address at a high level conference at Dublin Castle (in September 2012) organised by the National Childcare Committees, on the theme of making Ireland’s urban spaces more child friendly. Dublin City recently became the first Irish city to move formally towards this goal by introducing a fully integrated play policy with the aim of making the city of Dublin an International Child Friendly City.
DES Active School Flag Programme is a Department of Education and Science Initiative to encourage schools to move towards a more physically active model for students. For more information check out www.activeschoolflag.ie
Sugradh Ireland chaired by Dr. Carol Barron of Dublin City University is Ireland’s leading NGO in this area aiming to highlight the essential role which play has in a child's development, and especially the role of 'free play’ and recreation in children’s lives. The organisation is currently developing a new play and recreation web portal, in partnership with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Progress is expected on the new website by early 2013. More information on Sugradh Ireland is available on their website: www.playireland.ie
Integrated play and recreation opportunities for the ‘whole of life’
Other initiatives being developed at local community level are designed to encourage awareness of the importance of play and recreation throughout the whole of life from early childhood to adulthood and through to later life. A recent development by Cavan County Council provides an international best practice example of an outdoor gym in a town centre park where children, adults and older people are encouraged to exercise together. This is common in countries such as Japan which provided the inspiration for the Cavan project. Other excellent examples of integrated recreation initiatives are the ambitious large scale walkways developed in recent years by both South Dublin and Mayo County Councils. These lengthy walking areas which cover many miles in both landscaped and open areas provide a roadmap for future development where positive play and recreation opportunities are provided for children and families.
The emphasis in the future will be on encouraging parents to prioritise play and recreation for children as has been the case to date with academic education. Recent research has highlighted the wider benefits of play and recreation for academic achievement, improved mental and physical health as well as reduced levels of childhood and adult obesity. The Government’s focus will be on increasing awareness of this issue by spearheading an interagency approach to addressing the play and recreation needs of children, teenagers, adults and older people into the future. The work will need the support of parents, educators, role models and wider society if it is to be successful.
Play provision in urban apartment complexes
Recent challenges which have highlighted the lack of play opportunities for children in urban apartment complexes demonstrate the need to encourage parents in particular to advocate for play and recreation opportunities within their own communities. In the case of apartment complexes estate management companies need to be encouraged to prioritise the provision of play opportunities in green areas. The role of parents who are members of apartment management companies will be particularly crucial to bring about change in this area so that children growing up in apartment complexes are provided with opportunities and facilities for play. Excellent examples exist in Dublin’s IFSC and in other European cities where play areas are successfully integrated into apartment developments.
Documents of Interest
Below are links to a selection of documents and press releases etc.
National Play Policy
National Recreation Policy
Minister Frances Fitzgerald announces National Recreation Week 2012 - 26th October 2012
Minister Fitzgerald says National Play Day and new Play and Recreation Network initiative are vital for children’s health – 29th June 2012
Minister Frances Fitzgerald & Senator Eamonn Coghlan address launch of new National Play and Recreation Network – 3rd February 2012
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs sponsors a National Play Day and National Recreation Week in July and October each year.
National Recreation Week
National Play Day