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Summer of play 2021

After a year of sacrifice, let’s give children a summer to remember!

What is the #SummerOfPlay campaign?

Playing Out is joining many other organisations and experts to call for everyone to help make this summer a good one for all children, especially those who have suffered the most through lockdown. That means doing everything we can to ensure they have time, space and opportunity to play outside together. Play streets are one great way to do this and we are here to help anyone interested in this idea.

Why now?

Children have had a pretty rough deal through the pandemic, with long periods of being stuck indoors and unable to see their friends. They have sacrificed a lot in order to keep older and more vulnerable people safe. This has badly impacted both their mental and physical health. We have heard many really worrying reports from parents about their children becoming anxious, depressed and inactive.

And this all comes on top of a much longer-term loss of freedom to play out – what our good friend Tim Gill has called “a gradual creeping lockdown” for children over several decades. Recent research found that the average age children are allowed to play out unsupervised has risen from 9 to 11 in just one generation. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that our streets have become much more traffic-dominated, but the overall impact is that it is far less easy and normal for children to play out freely as part of everyday life. We think – and experts agree – that they are missing out on something really important.

So now is the time for us all – parents, communities, schools, organisations and politicians – to give children back their freedom to play outside. Not only will this help them recover from the past year, it will also give them a huge amount of what they need to be happy and healthy in the longer term: physical activity, fun, friendship, independence and a sense of belonging in their communities.

What can YOU do to give children a #SummerOfPlay?

The great thing about play is it costs nothing, given the time, safe space and opportunity, children just do it naturally.

Happy children on a play streetEveryone has a role to play in giving children the time, space and permission they need in order to play freely. Parents and other adults, schools, community organisations, councils and housing associations, Government –  we can all help. Many of us enjoyed this freedom when we were younger and children now need it now more than ever. Let’s all do what we can to make it happen this summer and start the ball rolling to restore a culture of play longer-term.

One thing we can all do right now is help raise awareness about the importance of play for children’s health and wellbeing by using the hashtag #SummerOfPlay and sharing positive stories. By doing this, you are automatically part of and supporting a summer of play for all children. See our play streets comms pack for some sample social media messages and feel free to download and use these social media assets.

Here are some other ways you can help:

Parents and carers

  • Start a play street
  • Allow children to play out near home whenever and wherever safe (pavement/driveway/greenspace)
  • Take them to parks, playgrounds, woods, public spaces (and let them play on the way!) – link up with other parents, let them have some freedom once there – you will know the right limits for your child
  • Ask your children’s school to give time, space and opportunity for outside play

All adults

Schools and nurseries

  • Prioritise play and don’t cut break time
  • Consider making use of nearby green space
  • Open up school grounds for ‘stay and play’ after school
  • Ensure holiday schemes are based around free outdoor play
  • Ensure staff understand the importance of free play
  • Organise a school play street

Community organisations

Councils and housing associations

Councils and housing associations can support a summer of play by adopting and promoting a supportive play street policy which includes:

  • Ensuring residents can easily and quickly apply for a temporary road closure this summer.
  • Making play streets free and accessible to all – no charges and provide road closure signs/kit.
  • Making turnaround/consultation period as short as possible.
  • Promoting play streets locally to parents and residents to encourage applications.
  • Providing a clear council contact and signposting residents to us for information, support and resources.
  • If you don’t yet have a play street policy, see our info for councils, for everything you need to get started. In the meantime, allow one-off play street sessions using your street party policy.
  • Sign the #SummerOfPlay pledge.

Other ways to help:

  • Take down ‘no ball games’ signs where possible.
  • Defend children’s right to play on estates.
  • Open and maintain parks and playgrounds (and lobby government for funding!).
  • Ensure other public spaces are welcoming for children to play.
  • Communicate the importance of playing out for children.

Government

Government policy on public health, transport, planning, housing, and the environment could support children to play out this summer and beyond. Read our policy manifesto for children’s freedom to play out.

Sign the pledge

To support a summer of play