Feeling overwhelmed or confused by the vast amount of information and opinion aimed at you? Stressed by the pressure to patiently school your children, provide exciting indoor play opportunities and have your happiest family times ever?
In one sense, this is a way more intense version of how parents have felt for years: always on the end of conflicting demands, pressures and judgements from school, public health, advertising, social media and even other parents.
In another sense, we will all be experiencing this time of crisis, change and uncertainty in fundamentally different ways, depending on our situations: key worker, working, or not working; with money and space or not; caring for others, fearing for our own health or the health of our loved ones; or dealing with other big challenges or issues.
How we each feel will vary too, changing day to day or even hour by hour: afraid, hopeful, anxious, wanting to appreciate, wanting to get on, wanting to shut it all out. We all experience thoughts of an uncertain future in very different ways too.
Whatever the situation though, most of us want the same clear things for our children: to be healthy and happy, in a safe and friendly environment, and to flourish. And we want society to support this.
So around the important subject of children being outside, here are some updates, questions and thoughts from Playing Out that speak to these shared wishes, and that we are also speaking up about.
Government guidelines say that as long as we stay at least 2 metres from others not in our household, we can go out once a day for our health – for exercise – close to home. Just to be clear, in case there is any doubt, this includes children! Play and physical activity are very important to health and wellbeing and it is good to hear about children safely getting this wherever possible.
Support for families outside
Some people are lucky enough to have gardens, so can be outside privately as well. But what if we live in a flat, with no private outside space at all? What if the space is tiny and being inside is harder for other reasons? Our safe, permitted time outside will then be even more important to our physical and mental health. And we will need to feel supported by society, not judged. It is heartening to hear of some residents sharing their gardens at set times with families in flats on the same street. And it is important that bigger picture, people (including us) are speaking up about inequality and public space at this time.
Better/ Innovative use of Public space
With many people trying to get daily exercise outdoors close to home, some parks are becoming more crowded. How could this be improved? Residential streets are already semi empty of traffic, and pedestrians are using them to pass each other at two metre distances. What if they were made even safer for people walking or cycling? 20 is Plenty is campaigning for this and others are calling for side streets to be closed to through traffic. Some cities internationally are already doing this.
Beyond streets, what about other informal public spaces such as car parks or green patches here and there: could they be used to give people more space to breathe and to exercise safely? We are helping to raise all these questions with the public and decision makers.
And finally…how do we stay hopeful?
As communities, our collective hope is focussed on managing, helping and coming out of this situation together, as well as we can. And individually we all stay hopeful in different ways of course, including important times with our children and enjoying when they are happy. But also…
As we look outside, we see quiet, safe, traffic free streets and experience this ourselves, on foot or on bikes. We smile at neighbours and know that we are looking out for each other. We breathe cleaner air and hear the birds and shouts of children. These are huge, radical changes, unimaginable just weeks ago. Perhaps we can stay hopeful by seeing important seeds here for future change, and at the right time we can help them to grow.
Or perhaps we stay hopeful simply by knowing that playing out and friendship will come again for children. Thank you to Dani at Larkin Out for this beautiful reminder of how things were, and how they will be again.
For up to date information and helpful links around children and exercise outside, indoor play, community connection, helping each other and street space during this period (and of course play streets, for when their time can come again), please see our dedicated website page. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; join our Facebook group or mailing list; and contact us any time.