More local support to help children play outside is being called for by Play England, part of leading children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau, as a growing body of research shows that children today do not have the same opportunities to play outside as their parents did, and are missing out on everyday childhood experiences.
The research shows that:
• Just 21% of children play outdoors every day near home, compared to 71% of their parents when they were a child; 1
• 7 out of 10 parents feel that taking their children to an outside space to play is a real treat and children feel the same, with a reported 59 per cent wishing they could play outside in natural places more and; 2
• one third of today’s children say they have never built a den, 32 per cent say they have never climbed a tree and one in ten children have never ridden a bike.2
The Government has awarded £2 million through a Big Society Fund to the Play England Free Time Consortium, a group of 17 local and specialist organisations working together to increase children and young people’s opportunities for play and recreation. The money will enable the consortium to drive community involvement so that they can help make their neighbourhoods places where children can play outside more often.
Catherine Prisk, Director of Play England, said: “Playing outside, chalking on the pavement, climbing trees and riding your bike are simple pleasures that many of today’s children are missing out on. Play is essential for children's health and happiness now, and is also essential for making friends, building key skills for the future and for feeling you are part of a community. The Love Outdoor Play Campaign – backed up by real opportunities offered by local organisations across the country – will make it easy for everyone to get involved in making England a place where children once more have the freedom to play outside every day after school and in the holidays.”
Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said: “I think we all know the importance of play to children. Over the past ten years a culture of red tape has stifled the freedom of children to climb trees, make dens and enjoy the simple pleasure of outdoor play. That is why we have awarded £2 million to Play England so that they can get more people involved in creating invaluable opportunities for children to play outside – this is all part of our drive to create a bigger stronger society where people are empowered to make a difference to their community.”
The consortium brings together local voluntary sector groups from across England who will offer a range of volunteering opportunities that include street parties, holiday play schemes, helping out on adventure playgrounds, or becoming a trustee.
It is expected to create over create over 20,000 new volunteering opportunities. There will also be one off opportunities to help build new play spaces – such as making rope swings or digging paddling pools – and for professionals to help their local play organisation with their website or their business plans. In addition there will be special programmes for young people to volunteer in their own communities, and further afield.
Volunteering has always been at the heart of play services across the country providing invaluable benefits for local communities, children and the volunteers themselves. At Shiremoor Adventure Playground in North Tyneside Justine, a parent who regularly takes her five-year-old to the playground, started volunteering 16 months ago. Inspired by the staff and the amazing work they do with the children and young people, she discovered a grant that could help them plug gaps in funds. Justine applied for the grant, and last October, the playground received £4,400 from the Big Lottery Fund to run weekly youth sessions. She now volunteers at the playground five days a week and last year started an NVQ level 2 in Playwork.
Justine said: “Volunteering has increased my confidence and given me perspective on what I want to do with my life. If someone had said to me a year ago I’d be doing this I’d have said no way - I’d never have thought I’d go back to college. Kids can always turn everything into a positive, they have me on a high all the time – I love it!
She continued: “Whatever your skills, whatever time you have to spare, there is a way that you can help your neighbourhood become a place where children have more freedom to play outside. “
The public is being asked to take the first step, by logging onto www.LoveOutdoorPlay.net to find out how they can get involved. Through the blog, email, Facebook and Twitter supporters will be kept up to date with opportunities across the country – and they are also invited to share how their support is helping more children have the freedom to play outside a bit more every day.
Source: Play England