Greater expectations are needed for outdoor play

At the end of August, the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) launched Greater Expectations – a new report   showing that children, especially those growing up in poverty, are getting a worse deal now than just two generations ago.

There are 1 million more children growing up in poverty than there were in 1971.

And those who are growing up in poverty are more obese, lead more sedentary lifestyles, have poorer quality housing and significantly less access to green space and open areas where they can play.

The key points from the report are highlighted in this two minute film:

The report, led by NCB’s Enver Solomon , is calling on current and future Government, as well as policy and thought leaders at all levels, to help make Britain the best place to grow up.

David Bond, the Marketing Director for Nature from Project Wild Thing, this week wrote an article on the subject in the Huffington Post. In  Too Poor for Nature  David talks about an interview with a ten-year old boy called Mason, a bright and charming kid with a cheeky smile, living on an east London estate.  Mason showed David around his community, taking him to the places where he and his friends play and hang out, from the ‘curly wurly slope’ to the ‘green grass’. He also showed him the busy roads with tiny pavements, the empty car park with ‘no ball games’  signs all over (‘we ignore them’) and, most poignantly, a new development that used to be an open green space near enough to his house for this confidant 10 year old to play on.

‘They’ve taken a lot of space from us and it’s not really fair I don’t think.’

I worked for a while in development and, at the time, totally bought into ‘brown field redevelopment’ and ‘infilling’ as a way to ‘maximise the potential’ of expensive and difficult to develop areas with desperate housing and work space needs. But no one ever talked about the needs of children and young people.

When I worked in nurseries and schools we also never talked about the lack of access to the school playing fields and outdoor spaces after hours – despite the fact that in Brixton, Hackney and Nunhead, and even in North Yorkshire where I was for three years, children have very little access to space to play after school. And frankly didn’t use it that much during school hours either.

So I ask you – what could England be like if we put just a little of that ‘best place to grow up’ thinking into practice? How will our world look when we can honestly say we love outdoor play?

Answers on here, on Facebook or by email… and they’ll appear in my next blog.

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