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Outdoor play and Covid

Free outdoor play near home is vital for children’s health and wellbeing, especially when life is more indoors, isolated and restricted.

For children, outdoor play is:

  • Fun! Children play out because they enjoy it.
  • Exercise. Outdoor play is essential for children’s physical activity, especially when other opportunities are limited.
  • Cost-free and open to all. All that is needed is easy access to safe space near home.
  • Social. Play is the main way children connect and make friends.
  • A way to let off steam and process difficult experiences.

Read more about the importance of free outdoor play for children here.

What are the current rules around playing outside?

We are regularly reviewing the guidance for any changes that impact children and their ability to play outdoors. However, for the most up to date information, please review the government guidance.

In England: See the most up to date guidance here. Lockdown is over and some councils are now allowing play streets. Read our play streets and covid page for our guidance.

In Wales, up to 50 people can take part in organised outdoor activities. 

Girl chalking on street

In Scotland, there may be slightly different restrictions depending on the area where you live.

Children aged 11 and under have not been counted in the limits on number of people meeting up in Scotland, and children have also been allowed to play outdoors in larger groups, including in organised gatherings throughout lockdown.

In Northern Ireland, children aged 12 and under are not counted in the limits of people meeting up. Currently, up to 500 people can attend outdoor gatherings. To determine maximum number that can attend, the organiser must have carried out a risk assessment. Outdoor gatherings of 30 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment. View the full guidance here.

Our views on current restrictions on outdoor play

We are trying to keep abreast of new research around Covid-19 and children so our views may change as more evidence emerges.

Our general view is that any lockdown rules should allow children under 12 to play outside together in some way as it’s low-risk and essential for their wellbeing. This has long been the decision in Scotland where children under 12 can meet outside without distancing. Scientific evidence to date largely shows that children under 12 are far less likely to spread the virus and that it spreads far less outside. See our list of other important reasons why children under 12 need to be specifically considered.

Play streets are now starting up again in some areas, read our play streets and Covid-19 page for the latest info. In the meantime it is still possible to be outside and public parks and playgrounds are open.

Games for socially distanced outdoor play

Where children are allowed to play out together, informal play in your street, estate or park might need a bit more managing. We started a list of games and activities that lend themselves to distanced play, without needing to impose too much structure.

The importance of being community minded

Whatever we are doing outside, it’s important, as always, to listen to any concerns neighbours may have, especially where people may be shielding or vulnerable. We must also all be conscious of our fair use of outside space (adults too) so that everyone can feel safe outside.

Play streets and covid-19

Info here