The right to play

We might think that play is “just play” but as we can see here in this piece from Let’s Play Ireland so much is going on in play! Children are exploring who they are, what they can do and what the world around them is like when they play. Play is so important that we can speak of the right to play.

The Right to Play

All children have the right to play as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The Convention is a list of all the rights children and young people everywhere in the world have. This is recognised by the Irish State.

Article 31 of the Convention says:

“Every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) says:

“To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more.”

Types of Play

There are many types of play and sometimes play can involve two or more different types of play. When children play they don’t decide first what type of play they will engage with – they just play.

Here’s how Bob Hughes describes types of play in his book ‘A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types, London: PLAYLINK, UK.’

Communication Play

Play using words, nuances or gestures for example, mime, jokes, play acting, singing, debate, poetry.

Communication play used the whole body – from facial expressions, hand gestures, body demonstrating and vocally.

Creative Play

Play which allows a new response, the transformation of information, awareness of new connections, with an element of surprise. This play type is one of the most visual by allowing a child to access loose parts, arts and craft materials.

Deep Play

Play which allows the child to encounter risky or even potentially life threatening experiences, to develop survival skills and conquer fear. This type of play is defined by play behaviour that can also be classed as risky or adventurous. This has important benefits to a child’s development.

Dramatic Play

Play which dramatises events in which the child is not a direct participator. Children may also wish to use make up and costumes in this type of play.

Exploratory Play

Play to access factual information consisting of manipulative behaviours such as handling, throwing, banging or mouthing objects.

Fantasy Play

Play which rearranges the world in the child’s way, a way which is unlikely to occur, for example being a superhero or sitting on a cloud.

Imaginative Play

Play where the conventional rules, which govern the physical world, do not apply, for example pretending to be an animal, or having a make-believe friend to being an object, for example a tree.

Mastery Play

Control of the physical and affective ingredients of the environments, for example making a dam in a stream, building a bonfire and digging holes in the earth or sand.

Object Play

Play which uses infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye manipulations and movements, for example examining an item and looking into how and why something works.

Recapitulative Play

Play that allows the child to explore ancestry, history, rituals, stories, rhymes, fire and darkness. Enables children to access play of earlier human evolutionary stages.

Locomotor Play

Skipping, Jumping, playing Chase.

Symbolic Play

A stick is a wand or the grass is molten lava.

Socio-dramatic Play

Enacting real life through play, like playing house or mums and dads.

Social Play

Playing a game together and deciding on rules for that play.

Role Play

Acting a role like driving a train or having a tea party.

Rough and Tumble Play

Discovering physical flexibility and the exhilaration of display. This will not involve any deliberate hurting but children should be laughing and having fun.

Children will often show preferences for some types of play over others and that is fine. We just need to make sure they have plenty of time to play. You can find out more at

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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