Play and youth work
People who work with older children and teenagers have an important role in supporting their opportunities to play and meet up with friends.
What the UNCRC says about teenagers and play
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines ‘children’ as everyone under the age of 18. Article 31 of the convention states that every child has the right to play. It also stresses the importance of providing activities that are appropriate to the age of the child.
General Comment no. 17 explores this further, stressing that play remains important in children’s lives as they grow older. But what they need changes, focusing on places that give them opportunities to socialise, be with other teenagers or be alone.
General Comment no. 17 also reminds us that older children and teenagers are likely to be drawn to opportunities involving risk-taking and challenge. These experiences are developmentally necessary and contribute to teenagers’ sense of identity and belonging.
In Wales, the Youth Work National Occupational Standards (2012) identify the key purpose of youth work as being to:
‘enable young people to develop holistically, working with them to facilitate their personal, social and educational development, to enable them to develop their voice, influence and place in society and to reach their full potential.’
At its core, youth work provides safe environments and supports teenagers’ development and wellbeing. Youth workers support teenagers so they can get involved in activities as members of groups and communities. Teenagers are supported in testing boundaries and developing the confidence to make informed choices.
As General Comment no. 17 points out, children’s play is any behaviour, activity or process that is initiated, controlled and structured by children themselves. It can take place whenever and wherever there is an opportunity. Youth workers, youth support workers and youth work volunteers, by understanding and supporting play, provide a natural way for children to:
- learn about themselves
- connect to the world around them.
Older children play too
This information sheet explores the play of older children, particularly those in early and middle adolescence (around the ages of 11 to 16). It explores ways of avoiding assumptions based on age alone and understanding the adolescent brain.
Supporting teenagers resources
The Supporting teenagers section of the Playful childhoods website includes information about:
- hanging out
- spaces to hang out
- spending time with your teenage child
- trips and holidays
- scary stuff teenagers do
- sticking up for teenagers
- helping teenagers stick up for themselves.