Team UNICEF

Why sport?

UNICEF Image: A boy kicks a football as he wades through floodwater at the A et B Hinde School in the city of Cotonou. Like many others, the school is closed due to the flooding.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2124/OLIVIER ASSELIN
A boy kicks a football as he wades through floodwater at the A et B Hinde School in the city of Cotonou. Like many others, the school is closed due to the flooding.

For many people around the world, sport and play are immediately and inextricably tied to the notion of childhood. Through play children explore, invent and create. They also develop social skills, learn to express their emotions, and gain confidence about their own capabilities. For many children, however, the chance to learn and grow through sport and play is unavailable, robbing them of some of the most important experiences of childhood.

Play in all its forms is the right of every child. Activities that employ and teach safe and inclusive play and sport are tools to improve children’s lives. Children throughout the world are naturally drawn to sport and play, and they can engage all children, even the poorest and most marginalized, to have fun and enjoy their childhood!

Early childhood marks a critical period in the life of a child, and can set the foundation for healthy development and life-long learning. Research shows that early childhood is the most critical period for brain development, and that experiences in the first years of life have more lasting impact on mental health and development than any others.

Throughout the life of a child, sport and play can be valuable tools to promote health and prevent disease, both through sport itself, and through the participatory act of watching others play, with the associated communication, education and social interaction that games can produce.

Reasons to play:

Play is not only a child’s inalienable right – it also influences physical, socio-emotional and cognitive development. The right to play is protected in Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the right to sport, which is specifically contained in other international treaties. For these reasons and the many reasons below, UNICEF continues to champion this right as fundamental to the health and growth of children everywhere

  • Sport is a powerful social tool, bringing together people from different ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Sport plays an important role in improving physical and mental health, and fostering active citizenship and social inclusion.
  • Sport is a good entry-point for the promotion of life skills-based education and healthy lifestyles, including the values of physical fitness, proper nutrition and how to make choices that positively impact health.
  • There is evidence that sport and play enhance child development and learning and encourage better academic performance.
  • Sport is a powerful social tool, bringing together people from different ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic and socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Sport plays an important role in improving physical and mental health, and fostering active citizenship and social inclusion.
  • Sport is a good entry-point for the promotion of life skills-based education and healthy lifestyles, including the values of physical fitness, proper nutrition and how to make choices that positively impact health.
  • There is evidence that sport and play enhance child development and learning and encourage better academic performance.
  • Sport encourages and improves physical fitness and reduction of childhood obesity: Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Evidence shows that regular participation in appropriate physical activity and sport provides all people, regardless of ability, with a wide range of physical, social and mental health benefits.
  • Sport offers opportunities for the development of peer leaders.
  • Sport increases self-esteem among adolescent girls and provides opportunities for the advancement of girls in the face of gender-related barriers.
  • Sport can build community, aid conflict resolution and foster mutual understanding and peer support among groups in past or present conflict.
  • Sport can be used to promote a safe and protective environment for children and to teach young people how to solve conflict in a non-violent manner.
  • Sport activities can be low-cost and utilize locally-available resources.


     

     

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