What can you do to love outdoor play this Easter?
Well I’ve just done an interview with the lovely folks over at BBC Radio Wiltshire (at about 18:20, but I’m about to put all the links below so not suggesting you try & find it!), following today’s publication of the National Trust’s Natural Childhood report and the launch of their debate over at Outdoor Nation.
Given that they used a lot of Play England’s data, and the research we often quote (and that is in our World Without Play round up of key reports) from colleagues such as Richard Louv, Tim Gill, Sue Palmer, Natural England, Penny Wilson, Meyer Hillman and others, you won’t be surprised to know we totally agree with their assessment of the main barriers to playing out:
- The danger from traffic, and how this severely limits children’s ability to venture outside their homes.
- The issue of Health and Safety, and how an obsession with trying to achieve a ‘zero-risk’ world is severely limiting children’s freedom.
- Parental fears of ‘stranger danger’, and its consequences for children’s freedom to roam in the wider environment.
- The negative attitudes of some authority figures, who regard children’s natural play as something to be stopped rather than encouraged.
They quote our research from Playday a couple of years ago where two thirds of parents said that children have less freedom to roam than free-range chickens. This is really true – in that there is legislation to ensure free range chickens get some freedom, whereas there is virtually none to protect children’s freedom to play.
- School break times have been cut to virtually nothing.
- Streets are often empty of children, even ones in our suburbs that have nice wide pavements and few cars.
- babies and toddlers are strapped into chairs and buggies; preteens and teens are on their computers.
Of course it’s not all doom and gloom – many children DO play outdoors after school and in the holidays. Many schools have fantastic grounds and actively encourage children to play during the day and after it. Many, many parents still do tell their fractious nine year old to jolly well go and get his friend and go to the park. And children really do still love playing out – just watch these videos from our friends at Playing Out and Lancashire County Council if you want to hear children telling you how much they love playing outside.
But still, its a fact that there are less children out, that they are generally older than their parents were when first allowed to go play out all day without an adult, and that far fewer have climbed a tree or made a den as a normal, everyday activity.
That’s not just in the holidays or for a special treat. Its every day.
So what can we do about it?
First – Sign up to follow this blog and be a supporter of Love Outdoor Play!
Second – Can you do anything to make where you live just a little more playful? Put up a Love Outdoor Play picture to show that your street is one that welcomes children playing out? Think about how your street could be closed for play? Just put some chalks or a cardboard box outside your house and see if anyone uses them?
Third – Ask your children/grandchildren/friend’s children what they WANT to do this holiday – and see how much more freedom you can let them have, and then just see how much fun they have! We’d love to hear about your adventures – whether 100 yards down your road or further afield – over on the Facebook page. To get some ideas you could check Play England’s playmap to see where other children and young people like playing out near you – and you could add your own.
This blog is supported local organisations including: Birmingham PlayCare Network, Children’s Links, Hackney Play Association, Hillingdon Play Association, KIDS, Lambeth Play Association, London Play, Manchester Young Lives, Milton Keynes Play Association, Play Torbay, Playwork Partnerships, Plymouth Play Association, Shiremoor Adventure Playground Trust (North Tyneside Council), and Wansdyke Play Association, Play Wales, Play Scotland, Playboard Northern Ireland, and Playing Out – all of them are looking for help – a few hours, days or weeks, whatever you can give – to help more children play outside this Easter
Fifth – Write to your MP to ask them how they could support Love Outdoor Play – with all the press coverage for National Trust’s report they should be thinking about how they can ensure local planning, transport, health & schools support children’s freedom to play
If you do nothing else, how about passing on this blog to someone else, just to let them know you love outdoor play and you’d like them to too.
Have a great weekend folks, and I hope you get to play outside too!