Home > Blog > Children's play, health and wellbeing > Playing out helps children to make friends across race, culture and backgrounds
Ingrid Skeels

Playing out helps children to make friends across race, culture and backgrounds

posted this in Children's play, health and wellbeing, Community on 24/04/2023

A residential street full of children playing

This positive feedback comes from a recent community engagement project about playing out close to home. As a benefit it is vitally important – to all children and to growing a fairer, more just society. And it needs to get talked about way more.

‘Playing Out Close to Home’

The joint project was commissioned by Playing Out and the Ubele Initiative, an African diaspora led social change organisation working with Black and Minoritised communities in the UK and globally. It was facilitated by  The African Pot (T.A.P) Project, an organisation addressing social exclusion for African and African diaspora communities in Central Manchester and beyond.

Ubele and T.A.P Project convened a group of community representatives from Moss Side, Hulme and Old Trafford and facilitated and filmed a brilliant inter-generational discussion around everything to do with playing out. Deanne is a grandmother and poet; Aaron, Daniel and Melvin are youth workers and educators; Malachi is 16 and at college; and Angeli is the facilitator who also co-runs T.A.P Project. Behind the camera and helping to direct the discussion is film-maker TJ from Art Officials.

Together the discussion pretty much covers every barrier relevant to children and parents: traffic and busy roads, screens, parental fears, culture change, and not knowing our neighbours. And every benefit too: children’s physical health, mental health, creativity, independence, confidence and sense of community and belonging. It’s a brilliant exploration of why all children need to play out, what’s stopping them, and what can be done about it. Watch the whole film discussion

Playing out and race…

Through sharing lived experience, the group discussion also looks specifically at playing out and race. Deanne experienced severe and shocking overt racism when she tried to play out as a young child, with drivers calling her names in the street and friends’ parents not allowing her into their houses.

Decades later, and in the more diverse communities of Moss Side, Hulme and Old Trafford, the experiences are more positive. “Still some racial differences at times..” but Aaron, Daniel and Melvin describe playing outside as the thing that got them all to mix, make friends across cultures and races, and stick up for each other, as they were growing up. It was the home patch, and not school, that enabled all this.

Malachi (16) – the next generation – shares how he likes to play out and how he also likes to connect on-line. Both are important. On racism he says “little bits here and there” but on the whole, “not a problem” for him playing out. Instead it’s where he explores and discovers what he likes to do. Watch the discussion on playing out and race

Playing out, racism and social inclusion

As Angeli from T.A.P. Project adds afterwards:

“Playing outside is important for all children, for all the different reasons given in the film. It also helps children to grow friendships and connections across different races and cultures, which is very much needed.

On the one hand, race is a social construct. Many can’t or simply refuse to try and understand, but it is a reality that is certainly felt. On the other hand, even if there is not the overt racism that Deanne experienced 50 years ago, there is still racism – it has just changed to being more covert and subtle. So we need ALL children and young people to be aware of it and to feel they can call it out.

There may also be specific barriers to Black and Brown children playing out, and it is important to bear that in mind when you are exploring this topic or doing research, or wanting to encourage and support children to play out.

Playing outside and connecting with friends in real life is also super important for minoritized communities as it allows children and young people to explore important thoughts, feelings, emotions as they grow, and to experience joy and develop resilience.

Our work at T.A.P. project is addressing social exclusion for African and African diaspora communities, and looking at the issues and opportunities around playing out very much fits this aim.”

Changing things and making space for play

Tishauna Mullins from Ubele explains why taking action around play is important:

Tishauna Mullings of the Ubele Initiative

“We work with a lot of diasporate populations in the UK, and playing out and play streets are an important way for people to connect with their roots and heritage and to find joy. They are a way to get children and parents outside, interacting with each other. They foster togetherness and a sense of joy. They can also cause people to start to communicate about wider issues in their communities. This is why when Playing Out approached us, we felt it was important to engage communities around this idea.”

Read more about our collaborative project with Ubele and see also their playing out in Jamaica film.

T.A.P. Project is hoping to share the film to get discussion going locally in Manchester and to organise a play street.

The film is also available for any community organisation to screen to get discussion going around children and playing out, perhaps as a way in to organising a play street. Please email us for a chat or any help.


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