How the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Supports Teachers to Inspire Learning and Development through Play

“Play, play

Remember and you will see

The world is so mysterious and wild

When you start to see it through the eyes of a child”

– Finding Neverland, 2015


Early childhood teachers are obligated to obtain an understanding of the legislative and policy frameworks that oversee and regulate their professional role. To work within such a policy driven context, one has a responsibility to recognise the intention behind a collation of policy framework documents, which set the standards and aspire to improve the quality of learning and development opportunities, settings and overall practices for the teaching of young children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (frequently abbreviated as UNCRC or CRC) is one such policy document, which is internationally recognised as it encapsulates universal human rights and applies these specifically to children.

One can perceive how the CRC is linked to children’s learning and development by creating, designing and evaluating curriculums that showcase the fundamental, inflexible standards and agreements it presents. Each of the Articles contained in the Convention, when embraced and applied to practice in the day to day, assist teachers to teach and learners to learn and develop. The child’s right to play is at the centre of the Campbell House philosophy.

Article 31 asserts that “All children have a right to relax and play” (United Nations, 1989). Richards and Carbonetti (2013) found that the positive effect of both rest and leisure have been evident when observing cognitive and behavioural aptitude. It has been argued that high quality, age appropriate play and recreation, in particular the notion of pretend play, are integral to shaping children’s cognitive development in the early years: “There is a growing body of evidence supporting the many connections between cognitive competence and high-quality pretend play” (Bergen, 2002, 9). Bergen found that children who experienced an absence of opportunities to partake in such play showed a weakened long-term capacity in the areas of metacognition, problem solving, social cognition, literacy, mathematics and science. Such findings deem it necessary for practitioners to present opportunities for children to engage in free play and recreation.

The benefits of children being free to play and explore in outdoor settings is vastly beneficial to their intrinsic motivation to learn. Jutras (2003, Abstract) found that “the contact of children with natural elements (vegetation, water, earth, small animals) furthers their comprehension of nature and their creativity, and promotes their interaction with the world. Moreover, natural elements exert positive physiological effects countering stress”. The new Campbell House outdoor learning space has afforded the children with a myriad of opportunities to extend their play in nature.

The right to rest, to leisure and to play is of utmost importance within our curriculum design to best facilitate children’s learning and cultivate the infinite possibilities of imagination and creativity.

Miss Kristina Schrader

Early Learning Teacher

Reference List

Bergen, D. (2002). The role of pretend play in children’s cognitive development. Early Childhood Research & Practice. 4(1), 1-9.

Jutras, S. (2003). Go outside and play! Contributions of an urban environment to the developing and wellbeing of children. Canadian Psychology-Psychologie Canadienne, 44(3), 257-266.

Richards, D. L., & Carbonetti, B. C. (2013). Worth what we decide: a defense of the right to leisure. The International Journal of Human Rights, 17(3), 329-349.

United Nations. (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. Geneva.

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