IPA was born in Scandinavia in 1961 and held its first conference in Copenhagen that year.

Barriers to children’s play were recognized in Scandinavia as early as the 1930s when to counteract the effects of increasing urbanization and motor traffic, specific areas with trained play workers were designated for children’s play.

Interest in providing quality play opportunities for children gradually increased and in 1955 a major seminar on playgrounds was held in Europe. The need for international action was evident. In 1961 IPA was born.

The United Nation’s International Year of the Child in 1979 injected IPA with new energy and a desire to become truly international. That year it held its first triennial conference outside Europe (in Ottawa, Canada). Since then, triennial conferences have been held worldwide and a global perspective has been realized.

Though IPA began its life with an emphasis on adventure playgrounds it gradually changed its focus to play itself and to the child’s right to play. In the 1980s IPA was effective in establishing the word “play” in article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

On 1 February 2013, the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) ratified General Comment #17 on article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.The UNCRC had tasked IPA with leading the creation of the General Comment.

Presidents of the Organization from 1961 – 2017:

  • C.T. Sorensen, Denmark
  • Jens Sigsgaard, Denmark
  • Valia Tanon, France
  • Arvid Bengstsson, Sweden
  • Polly Hill, Canada
  • Nic Nilsson, Sweden
  • Robin Moore, USA
  • Jan van Gils, Belgium
  • Michael Paris, Germany
  • Theresa Casey, Scotland