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Queen Margaret University event shines a light on children’s right to play

Posted: 14th November 2023

Children from an East Lothian village are at the centre of a research project which is helping shape play-friendly communities in East Lothian and across Scotland.

On Friday 10th November, the children from Whitecraig Primary School came together with lecturers and researchers at Queen Margaret University to celebrate children’s right to play and to help create play-friendly communities across the county. Ultimately, it is hoped that the research may lead to improved equality of access to play opportunities in communities, improving the lives of children nationally and internationally.

This fun child-focussed event at the University marks the completion of a participatory research project that saw children from the community work alongside a Queen Margaret University doctoral student. The team has been working together over the last year or so to develop a play-friendly community in the village of Whitecraig by putting children’s thoughts and ideas at the centre of the research.

Silvia Veiga-Seijo, who has been leading the project, is studying towards her PhD with Queen Margaret University and University College Cork within the P4PLAY programme. Discussing the importance of play, Silvia explained: “Play is a fundamental right for every child and an important activity in their daily lives. Children learn, explore and understand the world around them through play. It is critical for children’s development and is fundamental for their health and well-being. We also know that when children play in the community, this can make a positive contribution to the development of supportive, healthy and cohesive communities. Therefore, play is an issue of social and occupational justice, and every child should have the right to play in their everyday lives.”

Silvia has ensured children’s ideas are at the centre of this research. She said: “The children in Whitecraig are the experts in their play, so their perspectives have led the direction of research. Children were co-researchers during the different stages of the project. We have been focused on seeing things through their eyes and learning from their experiences and thoughts, and we intend to use this knowledge to work with councils, community groups, funders, families and volunteers to improve opportunities for play in Whitecraig and in different communities across the county and beyond.”

Today, the Whitecraig children took centre stage at the University event as they presented their perspectives about play in their community through a puppet show and two songs they have created. The event was also used as a platform to launch Silvia’s final research report based on the work that has been undertaken in Whitecraig over the past few years. This final report was written in collaboration with the 17 children, and the supervisors Dr Sarah Kantartzis and Professor Jeanne Jackson.

Continuing with the theme of encouraging play, children were encouraged to explore the university spaces and engage with university students to imagine future opportunities. The event brought together university student and staff, parents, community members, Play Scotland representatives, East Lothian Play Association, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, members of Scottish Parliament and East Lothian Council officials to celebrate the completion of the research and to champion children’s rights to play.

Silvia concluded: “It is exciting to reach this stage in the project. We now have solid research information which can help influence policy development, reports, initiatives, programmes and practices which will assist in improving provision for ‘play-friendly’ communities across Scotland and beyond. It is also an example of research which focuses on children’s participation. Indeed, we feel what we have achieved in Whitecraig can help shine a light on equality of access to play opportunities and can help create change for children in the future.”

The event, which was held on 10th November ‘23 at Queen Margaret University, was organised by Dr Sarah Kantartzis and Silvia Veiga-Seijo and hosted by the Division Occupational Therapy & Arts Therapies, Queen Margaret University and the P4PLAY Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network and had the theme Children advocating for play: Connecting university and communities.

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