The IPA Declaration of the Child’s Right to Play was originally produced in November 1977 at the IPA Malta Consultation held in preparation for the International Year of the Child (1979). It was revised by the IPA International Council in Vienna, September 1982, and Barcelona, September 1989.

The IPA Declaration should be read in conjunction with Article 31 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, November 20, 1989), which states that the child has a right to leisure, play, and participation in cultural and artistic activities.


  • CHILDREN are the foundation of the world’s future.
  • CHILDREN have played at all times throughout history and in all cultures.
  • PLAY, along with the basic needs of nutrition, health, shelter and education, is vital to develop the potential of all children.
  • PLAY is communication and expression, combining thought and action; it gives satisfaction and a feeling of achievement.
  • PLAY is instinctive, voluntary, and spontaneous.
  • PLAY helps children develop physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.
  • PLAY is a means of learning to live, not a mere passing of time.

IPA is deeply concerned by a number of alarming trends and their negative impact on children’s development:

  • Society’s indifference to the importance of play
  • Over-emphasis on theoretical and academic studies in schools.
  • Increasing numbers of children living with inadequate provisions for survival and development.
  • Inadequate environmental planning, which results in a lack of basic amenities, inappropriate housing forms, and poor traffic management.
  • Increasing commercial exploitation of children, and the deterioration of cultural traditions.
  • Lack of access for third world women to basic training in childcare and development.
  • Inadequate preparation of children to cope with life in a rapidly changing society.
  • Increasing segregation of children in the community.
  • The increasing numbers of working children, and their unacceptable working conditions.
  • Constant exposure of children to war, violence, exploitation and destruction.
  • Over-emphasis on unhealthy competition and “winning at all costs” in children’s sports.

The following proposals are listed under the names of government departments having a measure of responsibility for children.


  • Play is essential for the physical and mental health of the child.
  • Establish programs for professionals and parents about the benefits of play from birth onwards.
  • Ensure basic conditions (nutrition, sanitation, clean water and air) which promote the healthy survival and development of all children.
  • Incorporate play into community programs designed to maintain children’s physical and mental health.
  • Include play as an integral part of all children’s environments, including hospitals and other institutional settings.


  • Play is part of education.
  • Provide opportunities for initiative, interaction, creativity and socialization through play in formal education systems.
  • Include studies of the importance of play and the means of play provision in the training of all professionals and volunteers working with and for children.
  • Strengthen play provision in primary schools to enhance learning and to maintain attendance and motivation.
  • Reduce the incompatibilities between daily life, work and education by involving schools and colleges, and by using public buildings for community play programs.
  • Ensure that working children have access to play and learning opportunities outside of the system of formal education.


  • Play is an essential part of family and community life.
  • Ensure that play is accepted as an integral part of social development and social care.
  • Promote measures that strengthen positive relationships between parents and children.
  • Ensure that play is part of community-based services designed to integrate children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities into the community.
  • Provide safe play environments that protect children against abduction, sexual abuse and physical violence.

Children need opportunities to play at leisure.

  • Provide time, space, materials, natural settings, and programs with leaders where children may develop a sense of belonging, self-esteem, and enjoyment through play.
  • Enable interaction between children and people of all backgrounds and ages in leisure settings.
  • Encourage the conservation and use of traditional indigenous games.
  • Stop the commercial exploitation of children’s play, and the production and sale of war toys and games of violence and destruction.
  • Promote the use of co-operative games and fair play for children in sports.
  • Provide all children, particularly those with special needs, with access to a diversity of play environments, toys and play materials through community programs such as pre-school play groups, toy libraries and play buses.

The needs of the child must have priority in the planning of human settlements.

  • Ensure that children and young people can participate in making decisions that affect their surroundings and their access to them.
  • When planning new, or reorganizing existing developments, recognize the child’s small size and limited range of activity.
  • Disseminate existing knowledge about play facilities and play programs to planning professionals and politicians.
  • Oppose the building of high-rise housing and provide opportunities to mitigate its detrimental effects on children and families.
  • Enable children to move easily about the community by providing safe pedestrian access through urban neighborhoods, better traffic management, and improved public transportation.
  • Increase awareness of the high vulnerability of children living in slum settlements, tenements, and derelict neighborhoods.
  • Reserve adequate and appropriate space for play and recreation through statutory provision.

IPA is determined to sustain the momentum created by the International Year of the Child in 1979 to arouse world opinion for the improvement of the life of children, and:

  • AFFIRMS its belief in the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which in Article 7 states “The child shall have full opportunity to play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right;” and endorses its belief in Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • RECOGNIZES that the population of children in developing countries is three quarters of the world’s total child population, and that efforts directed at the promotion of education and literacy, and the stopping of environmental deprivation would improve the capacities of the poorest.
  • AFFIRMS its commitment to working with other national and international organizations to ensure basic conditions of survival for all children in order that they may fully develop as human beings.
  • ACKNOWLEDGES that each country is responsible for preparing its own courses of public and political action in the light of its culture, climate and social, political and economic structure;
  • RECOGNIZES that the full participation of the community is essential in planning and developing programs and services to meet the needs, wishes, and aspirations of children;
  • ASSURES its co-operation with UN agencies and other international and national organizations involved with children;
  • APPEALS to all countries and organizations to take action to counteract the alarming trends which jeopardize children’s healthy development and to give high priority to long term programs designed to ensure for all time:


  • IPA is an interdisciplinary non-governmental organization, providing an international forum and advocacy for the promotion of play opportunities.
  • IPA membership is open to any individual, group or organization which endorses the IPA Declaration of the Child’s Right to Play.
  • IPA organizes regional and national conferences, workshops, symposia and study tours and holds a triennial World Congress. IPA also publishes a magazine, PlayRights, and produces publications and audio-visual material on aspects of play.
  • IPA offers advice to national governments and UN agencies on issues and problems related to the implementation of the Child’s Right to Play.

In 1971, the IPA Board decided that it was important to cooperate with the UN organizations. We are recognized by, ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), and UNICEF, and work in agreement with their principles. They give a context to our work, as follows:

  • Our focus on human rights, specifically the Child’s Right to Play as stated in the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and now embodied in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Our feeling of solidarity with children all over the world.
  • Our involvement in peace education. IPA has been appointed as a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations.
  • Our commitment to the development of each individual to the maximum of their potential, the protection and enhancement of their culture, and the importance of the family and the community.

In 2014, IPA released the updated Declaration on the Importance of Play.