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New evidence shows impact of street play

posted this in Activism, Play Streets on 31/07/2017

Healthier children, happier communities is the overall impact of street play! So say three separate reports published this week.

Firstly, a survey conducted amongst the national network of ‘playing out’ streets shows how the temporary play street model is having a deep impact for children, adults and whole street communities.

Key impact findings include:

  • The Playing Out - Bartletts Roadmajority of people reported that children had learned or improved physical and social skills, including riding a bike (80%) and interacting with other children (88%).
  • The majority agreed that as a result of playing out they know more people on their street (91%) and feel they belong more in their neighbourhood (84%).
  • Crucially, at a time when community-led action is becoming ever more essential, over a third of respondents said playing out has led to them being involved in other community groups and activities.

One parent said: “I feel more empowered to make positive change in my community and in the street where I live. I feel a greater sense of ownership of my street and more confident at giving my daughter independence.”

See the full report here: Playing Out Survey Report 2017

Two other important new studies looking at the impact of street play are also now published. Both are based on the 3-year Department of Health funded project in which Playing Out was a key partner, along with Play England and London Play, 2013-16:

University of Bristol Evaluation Report

This was mainly into health outcomes for children. Professor Angie Page’s report  “Why temporary street closures for play make sense for public health” suggests this low-cost, grassroots model could make “a meaningful contribution to children’s physical activity levels”, with children three to five times more active during playing out sessions than they would be on a ‘normal’ day after school.

Using GPS and accelerometers, it was found that children were outdoors for a large proportion (>70%) of the time the streets were closed and spent on average 16 minutes per hour in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). It was also found that this outdoor, active play was more likely to replace sedentary and screen-based activities, than physical activities.

Play England Report: Street Play in Disadvantaged Areas

The final report “Street play initiatives in disadvantaged areas: experiences and emerging issues”, is written by researcher and author Tim Gill. Based on interviews with people involved in street play activity across five local authorities, this report highlights the common barriers to residents trying to organise street play sessions and some particular factors – challenges and positives – relating to resident-led street play in areas of higher deprivation.

The Case for Supporting Street Play

The overall conclusion from all these reports is that, where it is happening, the resident-led street play model undoubtably has profound and lasting impact for both children and the wider community. As it is also low-cost, sustainable and universally applicable, it is any policy-maker’s dream come true.

Now both national government and local authorities need to step up and provide the policy and practical support needed to make it easy for residents anywhere to initiate and sustain playing out for children.


Lots of media coverage around the reports. Starting with BBC Breakfast TV, between us at Playing Out, fantastic resident activators and children, expert friends, colleagues at Bristol University, London Play, Hackney Play Association and Play England, we did around 20 media interviews on Monday and the story was picked up by the national press.  Here are a few links – we’re trying to get hold of the others!


BBC Woman’s Hour:

Sunday Times (behind paywall):

Playing Out can provide free advice and support for any residents or organisations wanting to initiate street play. See here for how to get started on your own street or contact us for more information.

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