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 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 to play outside with friends close to home remains just as strong. And we think this dwindling freedom means that they, their families and communities are missing out on something important – even essential.
In response to this problem, we as parents 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. We called this idea ‘playing out’ – it has also become known as ‘play streets’. You can find out how to do it here. It has now become possible in many areas to ‘play out’ like this on a regular basis, with huge positive benefits for children and communities. And even a one-off session can have a dramatic effect, creating a vision of streets as vibrant, playable spaces.
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 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 CIC – a community interest company and national non-profit organisation – was set up in Bristol in 2011 by the co-founders of the project to do this job. We also develop new ideas and ignite discussion around children, play and public space. We are increasingly defending and calling for children’s right to play.
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 – as well as in government policy and maybe even 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. Do you want to help us change things?