Never underestimate the importance of play in a child’s life. How important? Substantial enough that it has been recognized by nothing less than the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as the right of every child. The right. Not just a privilege. A birthright: vital to brain development, creativity, dexterity, physical, cognitive and emotional strength.
It may sound strange to lump in “play” with other rights, such as the rights to life and survival. But the concept of “development” within this context is intended in a broad sense by supplementing a qualitative dimension: not only physical health is implicated but also emotional, intellectual, cognitive, cultural, and social development.
Undirected play permits children to navigate working in groups, sharing, negotiation, confliction resolution and even self-advocacy skills.The right to play encourages physical activity and the building of strong bodies.
The right to play blossoms creativity, identity, and self-assurance.
Imagine, then, what happens to a child deprived of this right.
For example, a child slave.
Agents of misfortune such as child labor and exploitation practices pose a serious threat the cardinal developmental needs of children everywhere. Even if they escape the snare of slavery, they emerge with minds stunted, steeped in the stagnant waters of laborious tedium.
Have these hands that have only held hammers ever even touched a toy?
That’s precisely the question that drives conscientious entrepreneurs such as Shweta Chari in India, where the scourge of bonded labor is particularly prevalent: as many as 20 million children toil under the constraints of child slavery within Indian borders alone.
Consequently, in 2004 Chari was inspired to found Toybank, a non-governmental organization that supplies toys and a place to play for thousands of rural and urban children in India.
“We soon realized that the beneficiaries of toys were impacted much beyond our expectation. The children began to recognize that play was one of their core rights. They also began expressing themselves better and were more in tune with their lives and circumstances.”
Now running in India’s Bangalore and Poona, Toybankers hope to extend their work beyond the boundaries of India to children deprived of play all over the world.
That’s why–for Day #14 of my February commitment to help end modern slavery–I’m choosing to support Toybank. Watch this in-depth, heartfelt look at the Toybank mission in the video below, and maybe you’ll join me.
Among all our earth’s most precious resources, children remain the most significant and fragile asset of all. For a healthier future, we must protect their minds and cultivate them with care. They are the architects of the future: how their minds are shaped will determine the path and construction of tomorrow’s civilization.
And that’s why every child deserves to play.