Outdoor Play

Many of you may have seen the disgusting remark made by Nigel Farage earlier in the week about that immigration divides communities to the extent that children can no longer play outside together.  Really?!  He obviously has little contact with children.  Children do not care about the colour of people’s skin or their background to them they are just other children and they will play together given the chance.  I imagine most of the prejudices come from adults, telling their children who they can and can’t play with.

A large group of playworkers have drafted a letter to politicians , posted on Policy for Play.  I qualified as a playworker back in 1997 and its good to see some familiar names on the list.
The letter is as follows;

Dear Candidate,

Following the recent assertion, from Nigel Farage of UKIP, that immigration divides communities to the extent that children can no longer play outside together, we would like to assure you that in our experience of supporting community play over many years, this is not true.

We would, however, like to highlight evidence of the real barriers to outdoor play.
Play is in some ways a delicate thing, largely unnoticed by the adult world. Yet when children are free to play, they thrive. There is plenty of evidence that playing is vital to their development, essential to good mental health and physical activity. It is how children discover their identity and their passions. Most importantly, playing is how they most enjoy being alive.

Children play regardless of their differences, and the friendships they form through play make up the social fabric that strengthens families – and whole communities. Over a number of years there has been a great deal of research into the barriers that children face to their natural desire to play with their friends in the public spaces near their homes.

The number one offender is invariably traffic, followed by parental anxiety about ‘stranger danger’.
Research (by Ipsos MORI, NOP and a range of academic institutions) over a number of years has shown that other reasons for children not playing out as much as they and their parents would like, are anxieties about bullying, too much rubbish, poorly maintained or boring playgrounds and a lack of trusted adult oversight. In recent years, fear of accusations of bad parenting has also been cited as a reason for keeping children inside. Pressure on both children’s and adults’ time – from school and work respectively – is another.

These barriers have become so great that some studies estimate that today’s children have less than 10 per cent of the space for free play, compared to only 30-40 years ago. Strong links have been made between this decline and a range of poor health trends.

None of the evidence that we have looked at suggests that immigration is a significant factor.
On the contrary, children playing outside bring people together and engender strong, cohesive communities. We see children from diverse backgrounds playing together in their local neighbourhoods every day, but to enable and support more children to play outside – the way they have for countless generations all over the world – we need to control traffic, not immigration. Children and their parents need to have confidence in the public spaces where they would play.
They need more road closures, lower speed limits, safe routes to school and play areas, more and better community policing; and funding for playwork and community play projects. In the longer-term, planning decisions and spatial development strategies must consider what children need from the built environment and the wider public realm.

We would like to invite you to meet some of us and to visit the streets, estates and villages where you can see for yourself the power of community play. We would also be more than happy to discuss with you how the new government can support children’s play after the election.
Please pledge today to work with us to improve the spaces where families live; to support community play for the UK’s children – in all their glorious diversity.

We look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
Isabelle Allen, Playworker, Sycamore Adventure
Marc Armitage, Independent Playwork Consultant
Roger Barham Fran Barton
Arthur Battram, PleXity
Simon Bazley
Tracey Beasley, Playwork and Early Years Trainer, CWT – Chamber Training
Joan Beattie, EQ Playwork Training and Consultancy
Lucy Benson, Islington Play Association
Steve Boeje, Play Association Hammersmith and Fulham
Jackie Boldon and the Shiremoor Adventure Playground team
Dani Bowman, Community Development Officer, High Wycombe
Karen Benjamin, Training and Development Officer, Playwork Partnerships
Janine Sally Brady
Amanda Brook
Professor Fraser Brown
Donne Buck
Petra Burgess, senior playworker, Bapp
Phill Burton, Dynamix
Imogen Butler-Cole
Rebecca Coley, Birmingham PlayCare Service

I have sent this to my local candidates, you can find out who they are for your area at BBC Election 2015, just enter your postcode in the box where it says find your constituency, it then gives you a list of all candidates in your constituency and you can find their contact details by Googling their name.
I hope as many of you as possible will do this, our children need safe places to play and they don’t need people telling them who they can and can’t play with.  I am lucky to live on a cul de sac and so we have children playing on the street and they have great fun, well most of the time anyway, there are the usual childhood squabbles, but in the main they group together and play, my daughter hates it when the other children are not around to play with.

Our children grow up so fast these days and need these experiences, whilst they can.  Comments like those made by Mr Farage will just drive more children inside to their computers and TV’s.
As a 1970’s child we played outside all the time.

To comment on this post, please click the header to this article. This will take you to my blog on blogger.com

Leave a Reply