HONG KONG, 11 May 2014 — Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF HK) partnered with Playright Children’s Play Association (Playright) to organise the first-ever ‘UNICEF Family Inclusive Play Day’ (Play Day) and to echo with ‘May for Children’ of the ‘Bless Hong Kong Campaign’ and celebrate Mother’s Day. The Play Day is considered as a prelude to the creation of the first local ‘inclusive playground’ which the organisations are urging for.
In the Play Day, water bed, mirror play and many more inclusive play facilities were set up in Tuen Mun Park, to help children with different abilities to experience ‘inclusive play’ – ‘a play for all’ before the establishment of the first ‘inclusive playground’ in Hong Kong. Nearly 1,000 participants, including children with special needs and their parents, joined the Play Day, reiterating the message of ‘helping those in need, is a blessing in deed’.
As stated in the Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children, whether healthy, or with physical or developmental disabilities, are entitled to the ‘Right to Play’. Since 2012, UNICEF HK has partnered with Playright to advocate for ‘inclusive play’ through its ‘Child Rights Advocacy Project’ – to realise ‘Zero Underdevelopment’ for all children by engaging children in play that stimulates their sensory, social and physical potential, and thus pursues all-round development.
‘Family Inclusive Play Day’ draws upon the principles of ‘Inclusive Design’ and provides participants with three main play experiences, namely sensory, social and physical experiences. Nearly 20 play zones, such as ‘Water War’, ‘Music Corridor’ and ‘Roller Slides’, are set up with barrier-free paths and the implementation of the principles of ‘Inclusive Design’ to facilitate inclusive play. Many of them are brand-new play ideas.
‘Spring Board’, a play idea that firstly seen in Hong Kong was set up in the park. Wooden spring boards are widened to allow children in wheelchairs and those who needs adults’ companion during play to enjoy ‘up-down’ movement together. This physical excitement helps foster their muscle and brain development. Space between spring boards further increases the excitement, fun and challenges of the play when children jump from one spring board to another.
9-square-metre ‘Water Bed’, the largest outdoor water bed was also set up to engage more children in sensory, social and physical experiences. Children with different abilities and their families lied and rolled over the bed as if they were just over the sea. The play trains children’s balancing skills and provides them with integrated play experience.
Other inclusive play settings, such as a 3D, curved ground outdoor basketball court, was set up to provide children with more diverse play experience. The height of the basketball frames can be adjusted to accommodate for children of different abilities.
Mr Joseph Kwan, Chairperson of Play Environment Committee of Playright said, “Sensory play helps to stimulate children’s neural and language system. Social play helps children to express opinions, settle disputes, cooperate and share. Physical play responds to the natural inclination of children in movement, helping their muscle development.”
He continued to share the collaboration with UNICEF HK on ‘Playgrounds for All’ project, “We have always strived to improve the quality and development of children’s play environment. Recently, we have even put more efforts to share practical experience and knowledge with playground-related industry, so that we can keep up with global trends. We invited world-renowned inclusive play environment experts to come to Hong Kong to provide trainings for local academic and playground-related industry, so that we can understand the various needs of play of different children. At present, we have set up a committee for inclusive play environment design competition, and unite industry leaders to step forward to the sustainable development on creating more inclusive playgrounds in Hong Kong.”
|“The real ‘inclusive playground’ is the best epitome of an ‘inclusive society’. Through play, a common language, children can understand and grow up happily together without discrimination,” said Ms Judy Chen, Chairman of UNICEF HK. She recalled few months ago a father of an autistic boy shared the difficulty of finding a merry-go-round, which helps develop his sensory system. His son can only stay at home and ride on a bicycle around, and is deprived of the opportunity to play with other children and all-round development.|
“Playground is vital to a happy childhood, but not many children with special needs are given the way to enjoy such happiness…Today’s ‘Family Inclusive Play Day’ aims to provide everyone with the experience of ‘inclusive play’, and have a deeper understanding of the importance of play to children’s health development at the same venue. We hope, by 2018, there will be an ‘inclusive playground’ in Hong Kong.” Judy added.
Honourable Ms Florence Hui Hiu-fai, Under Secretary for Home Affairs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, UNICEF HK Ambassadors Mr Wong Kam-po and Miss Sarah Lee Wai-sze also attended the event and joined the effort to champion children’s ‘Right to Play’ and ‘inclusive play’ together with nearly 1,000 children with and without disabilities as well as their parents.
During the ceremony, guests unveiled the ‘Mirror-go-round’, another play setting which is firstly introduced in Hong Kong, together with children. Guests pushed the mirror-go-round together and brought children double sensory experience by the reflections of the mirror surface and spins. Sensory experience is vital to children’s development. The action also shows guests’ determination to push forward the set up of the first inclusive playground for all Hong Kong children. Shortly after, guests and children led all participants to voice out our dream: ‘Inclusive Play, a play for all’, so as to call for support from all Hong Kong citizens.
Ms Leonie Ki, Chairman of the Working Group of the ‘Bless Hong Kong Campaign’, Societal Engagement Task Force of the Commission on Poverty, and Chairman of Advocacy and Public Relations Committee of UNICEF HK said, “I am delighted to see that with the prompt and active response of the government, Playright and UNICEF HK are standing hand in hand to create the first local ‘inclusive playground’. We have lots of fun in today’s play day, which is just a prelude. We can envisage in the near future, by gathering the power of tripartite collaboration among the community, the business sector and the government on the Project, we can achieve even greater results. I hope more governmental organisations, developers and Estate Management Advisory Committees can consider having more inclusive play settings in our city, to promote the social harmony and inclusion.”
UNICEF HK Ambassadors Mr Wong Kam-po and Miss Sarah Lee Wai-sze are also looking forward to the ‘inclusive playground’ in Hong Kong as they see the existing play settings at barrier-free playgrounds still cannot fulfill the needs of children with disabilities. Mr Wong said, “I wish children can have more outdoor plays, meet more friends, and have a healthier, happier life through ‘inclusive play’ in the future!” Sarah added, “I love play when I was small and I believe children with special needs love play as much as I do. They also need play to develop their physical and psychological health, muscles, and leadership skills.”
‘Unite for Children. Unite for Hong Kong’ Child Rights Advocacy Project aims to promote and realise the right of local children, striving to advocate the right of children to the community. We hope to cooperate with all social sectors to unite for children, making Hong Kong to be an ever child friendly city.
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