Announcing Hour of Free Play Challenge – play for children’s well-being

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Announcing Hour of Free Play Challenge - play for children's well-being

UNICEF, in collaboration with Bachpan Manao, Bhadte Jao (BMBJ) initiative by EkStep Foundation, is proud to announce the first-ever ‘Hour of Play’ in India to be observed on June 11, 2024, marking the International Day of Play. The United Nations has declared June 11, starting in 2024, the International Day of Play to urge every adult to invest in, protect, and support every child’s right to play by providing time, space, and access to play.

While play should be part of children’s lives every day, the call to action on June 11th is to stop what adults are doing from 5 pm to 6 pm and engage in an Hour of Free play. Free play means activities led by children.

In celebrating the bond between parents and children, UNICEF and EkStep Foundation are highlighting the critical role of play for children’s holistic development together with the significant role of parents in a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. This hour is an opportunity for parents to join in fun, laughter, and play, strengthening the bond with their children. Through free play, children experience and learn about their world by exploring physical environments, expressing emotions, and building their vocabulary through playful, fun activities.

BMBJ and UNICEF are activating action for play by urging workplaces, communities, and individuals to join the #HourofPlay and also encourage their friends and families to participate by posting their pictures and experiences on family groups and on social media by tagging their friends to take part in the Hour of Free Play challenge with the #ItsRightToPlay and #ForEveryChild, Play.

Deepika Moglishetty, Chief of Policy and Partnerships, EkStep Foundation, stated, “Playing is like breathing for children—therefore, every child in India needs it, and every caring adult in India must celebrate play. Play is natural for children, and it has science behind it. Our education policy underscores this. Play needs to be actioned and embraced by caring adults to celebrate childhood and keep growing.

Bachpan Manao collabactors (collab+action) show a tapestry of action across India for early childhood, covering its diversity in language, socio-economic conditions and different abilities of children. The call for the right to play comes from the voices of children worldwide – children in challenging environments, different abilities and locations, including gender.  The initiative #Houroffreeplay is not just a demand to pause and engage in child-led play on June 11th, but also to make this part of your daily life and advocate for every child – at homes, in communities, in schools for #itsrighttoplay. We can celebrate childhood and grow this way, she said.”

Arjan De Wagt, UNICEF India’s Deputy Representative, Programs, emphasized, “Play is how young children learn and make sense of the world around them. At UNICEF, we know that through nurturing parental care and play children’s lives can be transformed. At the same time, integrating play-based learning into education systems makes learning enjoyable and relevant. The Hour of Play initiative embodies UNICEF’s commitment to nurture and provide every child, with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive through play leading to healthy cognitive, emotional, and social development.  It is our commitment to children’s well-being and development.”

UNICEF’s estimates show that globally 1 in 10 misses out on activities with their parents /caregivers that are critical to promoting cognitive, social, and emotional development, like reading, storytelling, singing, and drawing. The data also show that globally around 1 in 5 children aged 2-4 years do not play with their caregivers at home, while roughly 1 in 8 under age 5 do not have toys or playthings at home.

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