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Playing Out: what’s it all about?

Just playing out

Simply ‘playing out’ – having the freedom to step out of your own front door and kick a ball about – is nothing new. There are still some streets and estates where this happens and that’s great. But the reality is that for various reasons, most children have far less freedom to play out than their parents or grandparents had. Yet though the world may have changed for today’s children, their need for free play close to their homes remains just as strong. And we think this dwindling freedom means that they, their families and communities are losing out on something important.

The ‘playing out’ model

In response to this problem, we developed a model where neighbours close their street to through traffic for a couple of hours, creating a safe space for children to play out. More detail about how this works can be found here. It has now become possible in many areas to ‘play out’ like this on a regular basis but even a one-off session can have a dramatic effect. In short, this model:

  • Gives children a chance to play out freely and safely on their own street.
  • Builds the conditions needed for street play to be normal again (safer streets, more connected communities, safety in numbers)
  • Creates a vision of streets as vibrant, playable spaces

Playing Out Community Interest Company

Playing Out CIC was set up in 2011 by the co-founders of the project and now consists of a small team based in a Bristol shop, managed by a voluntary board of directors. This not-for-profit organisation aims to build a culture of street play across the UK, through supporting residents and organisations and igniting discussion and debate about children, play and public space.

A growing grassroots movement

Thousands of people all over the UK are now actively involved in making their streets, neighbourhoods and cities more play and child-friendly – using the playing out model and in many other creative and imaginative ways. Through our Facebook group and direct contact with street organisers and activators, we aim to support, learn from and help grow this inspiring community of individuals into a lasting force for change.

Playing Out in the future

To come full-circle, ultimately, our aim is for playing out to be a normal everyday activity for all children, wherever they live, rather than an organised, supervised event. This is going to take a major shift in wider public attitudes, behaviour – maybe even in the way we plan and design our streets and cities. We hope that what we are doing is a catalyst for change or at least, as part of a wider movement for children’s freedom to play, a nudge in the right direction.