How to include everyone in a play street
Play streets are not just for families with young children but for anyone in the street who wants to get involved.
They are a wonderful opportunity to grow a friendly, supportive street community and often lead to other things like sharing tools, food or childcare. Some communities have even gone on to create permanent changes to their street, such as planters or a community garden.
As well as making sure you involve everyone from the very beginning of the process, it’s important to make the sessions themselves feel inclusive. Encourage those without children to come out for a cup of tea and a chat, or to help with stewarding. You could provide some chairs for any older neighbours to sit on if they need it and ask them to share their memories or games from childhood.
To make sure everyone feels included in your play street:
Contact everyone in the street
When you are planning your play street, online tools like Whatsapp, email, Facebook and Zoom are all extremely useful – but don’t forgot those who might not be digital. Meeting invitations, consultations and publicity should also be put through letterboxes and include your phone number. If you’re feeling brave, door-knocking while you’re leafletting can be a great way to meet neighbours and build relationships. Taking a friend or child with you can make it easier.
Use simple language and make clear that it is for everyone
In your leaflet or letter to neighbours, you could include something like “We hope that everyone in the street feels welcome. If you have children or you don’t, we hope that you want to join us for a chat and a cuppa. If anyone has mobility issues and needs a bit of help let us know. Or if you can help with stewarding, we would be very pleased to hear from you. We will explain how to do it, and you will be with someone who has done it before.”
Simple language is important as not everyone will have the same levels of education. A good test is to check if what you’ve written could be understood by a 12 year old. If you are aware of people on your street who don’t speak English as their first language, we do have translations of our leaflets into Arabic and Polish – you can download them here. For any other languages, can you find someone to translate?
Listen and try to understand other people’s perspectives
If people object or have concerns, offer them time to express this and try to really hear what they are saying. Show that you care about their opinion and feelings – they live on the street too and have a right to express themselves. For many people the idea of change can be scary, but if they feel properly heard this can really help to build trust. Address their concerns as clearly as you can and reassure them if you can. Our possible concerns page should help with this. One way we find works well is to ask people to give it a try once, and you will speak with them again after the first session. If they are still unhappy, ask what would help and try to find a compromise. If they are still really against the idea, let them know calmly and clearly how they can communicate this to the council.
During the session, be friendly to neighbours passing through
If you see any neighbours walking home or driving off during the session, smile, wave or say hello. If they respond you could invite them to join in and have a cuppa – if not this time then next time. Be friendly but keep it light – not everyone wants to be social and that’s fine too!
Consider other activities that might be inclusive for different people
A specific reason to come out of the house can help if people are shy or unsure. Book/plant/clothes/toy swaps, a cake table or shared food are good ideas. But keep it simple or just do it as a one-off as you may not have the energy to keep it up every time.