Championing the Child's Right to Play

American Association for the Child's Right to Play

The origin of the International Play Association (IPA) and its affiliates in nearly 50 countries is close to 100 years old! In 1923, Save the Children founder, Eglantyne Jebb, drafted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Jebb believed that the rights of a child should be especially protected and enforced. These ideas were adopted by the International Save the Children Union in Geneva on February 23, 1923 and endorsed by the League of Nations General Assembly on November 26, 1924 as the World Child Welfare Charter. 

These proclamations, however, were not enforceable by international law, but rather only guidelines for countries to follow. Consequently, on November 20, 1959, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a much expanded version as its own Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adding ten principles in place of the original five. Principal Nine includes: “The child shall have full opportunity for 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 the right...” November 20th has been adopted as the Universal Children’s Day as an ongoing celebration of that historic adoption.

Meanwhile, interest in providing quality play opportunities for children in Europe had been gradually increasing over the decades before the signing of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. In 1955, a major seminar on playgrounds was held in Europe. The need for international action was evident. In 1961, IPA was born in Scandinavia and held its first conference in Copenhagen that year. IPA has since held 18 International Conferences, and the next one is scheduled for Istanbul in 2014. The American Association for the Child’s Right to Play (IPA/USA) was formed in Philadelphia in 1973 as the USA affiliate of the International Play Association. IPA/USA has also held multiple national conferences.

When the United Nations named 1979 the International Year of the Child, new energy was injected into IPA. In the 1980s IPA was effective in establishing the word “play” in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and thus, in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which strengthened the Declaration of Rights of 1959, was adopted by the UN General Assembly. On September 2, 1990 it became international law with one notable exception: the U.S. who signed the Charter is the only organized country that has not ratified it. The Convention consists of 54 articles that address the basic human rights that children everywhere are entitled. 

The mission of IPA, IPA/USA, and the nearly 50 other national affiliates is to protect, preserve, and promote play as a fundamental right for all humans, as stated in Article 31 of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In particular, IPA/USA does the following: maintains an active website with resources on various play topics; publishes an online peer-reviewed eJournal; holds national conferences; and joins with other like-minded professional organizations for publication of position papers. In addition, IPA/USA members have all the benefits of membership in the International Play Association as well.

International Play Association

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