Promoting play streets locally
Once you have a good council policy in place, it’s very important to get the word out there about play streets in your local area.
Many people will never have heard of the idea but if they did, they would jump at the chance to get involved! There’s no exact recipe – all areas are different, and there are lots of imaginative ways to promote play streets.
On this page we will provide tips to get you thinking about:
Just want to get started?
Although a play street is for all ages, the organisers are often parents of young children, because they have a strong motivation to provide this for their children (and for themselves). The other main target audience might be community activists motivated to make local streets safer and more people-friendly (e.g. Liveable Neighbourhoods or walking/cycling groups), so you could use the questions below to think about how best to reach them too.
Questions to ask yourself about your audience
What are their motivations?
For parents, this will be for their children to have fun, make friends and feel happy and safe within their community. This is especially true since the pandemic has restricted children and parent’s lives so dramatically. Parents may remember their own experiences of playing out fondly, so it’s good to get them interested by asking questions on social media channels, like “Do you remember playing out in the streets?” “What games did you play and what are your favourite memories?” and “Want to give your children something really fun to look forward to this summer?” “Want to make your street the happiest, friendliest place to be?”
Parents usually also have tight budgets and busy, hyper-local lives so it’s good to emphasise that play streets are free, simple and right on the doorstep.
Who do they listen to?
Like most people, parents trust other people like them, so peer to peer communication is very powerful. If you have some parents or residents who are already organising play streets, encourage them to use their voices and networks to spread the word locally. Often people will see or hear about a play street happening nearby and want to do the same. If you have any potential activators, make sure you nurture and support them – they are gold dust!
Where are they?
Parents of young children often stay very close to home, so it’s good to think about local places (like children’s centres, cafes, city farms, nurseries, parks, schools and community centres) where they might find out about things. There may well be local Facebook groups or community newsletters you can publicise in.
What are the elements and benefits of play streets to particularly highlight in any promotion that speak to the concerns and motivations of parents, and residents?
A play street is:
- A chance to play out with other children. A chance to run around, make friends, play games, be on bikes. It’s something good and fun!
- A safe space. There is no through traffic, cars are only allowed in at walking-speed and adults are around to supervise. There is ‘safety in numbers’, so it can even help neighbours to reclaim a street that normally feels unsafe due to crime or antisocial behaviour.
- On the doorstep. You can’t get more local, accessible and inclusive than the public space right outside your front door. In Holland they have even promoted play streets as ‘mini holidays’ you can have where you live (complete with a few deckchairs out) – especially important when people can’t go away.
- Free. If the council has a good policy and covers costs like signage and leaflets, play streets should cost nothing to the community. No special equipment or activities are needed – children are just happy to have the chance to play out together with whatever they have.
- A chance to meet neighbours. A chance to use the communal space on your doorstep and talk, share cups of tea, find support, grow friendships and build on the virtual connections made during lockdown.
- A way to make your street safer and more people-friendly. Some residents are motivated by issues such as air quality, and road safety, and will be organising play streets for that reason. However everyone wants a nicer place to live and bring up children.
- Simple, do-able and yours. Organising a play street takes a bit of time, effort and confidence, but you can reassure parents that there is plenty of help available (from us and you) to make this as simple and easy as possible. It’s also important that residents can take ownership and make it their own, deciding (within reason) what to do, when and how.
- Part of a growing movement changing things for children. This is key. Tell parents: you are not on your own, you are part of a bigger movement for change that you can share ideas with, get support from and belong to. Signpost them to our website and national Facebook group.
1. Make it easy and encouraging!
Signpost to all practical advice, support, and encouragement available:
- Council guidance notes and a contact person to talk through queries about application process or road closures.
- Any local groups or organisations that are supporting play streets in your area e.g. Hackney Play Association, Play.Meet.Street .
- Our website and Facebook group for parents/residents.
2. Local media coverage
Play streets are a very media-friendly topic.
- Local post, radio and even TV are good places to launch play streets.
- Local news programmes like to cover it as a new policy.
- Features pages or mid-morning radio chat shows like to cover this as a way to get good discussion going.
- Line up parents and residents willing to be interviewed about their street and provide support for them.
- Ensure any filming or photography at play streets is done with full involvement and consent from residents, and doesn’t interfere with the normal, safe running of the session. Download our guidelines for filming at a play street.
3. Speak to the heart
Everyone was a child once! And most adults over a certain age played out as children. Use those memories to light up people’s brains – it can help to calm any objections and concerns. e.g. “Remember playing out back in the day? Why not give your/our children a taste of that this summer?”
4. Use existing channels of communication and go to where people are
- Advertise through local schools, nurseries, children’s centres e.g. on their newsletters, hold a playground stall, hand out leaflets at the school gate.
- Research active neighbourhood networks and online groups.
- Use very local community newsletters – often free and full of local stories and info.
- Try local like-minded organisations such as walking and cycling groups, play associations, environmental groups, community development and neighbourhood groups.
5. Share real parents’ stories and images
- This will be much more inspiring and relatable than idealised images or messages from an ‘authority’ voice like a council.
- Normal looking, diverse streets and people will give the message “You can do this too! It’s simple and do-able”.
- See our parent and resident stories and please share these as much as you like.
- Use images that people can relate to – perfect smiling children on perfect sunny, litter-free streets will make the idea seem unattainable.
- We have a huge bank of images so get in touch and we are happy to share, so long as you credit us.
6. Make full use of social media and amplify parent voices
- Use your social media channels – be brief, friendly and capture attention with good photos and eye-catching questions (see above example questions).
- Tag us @playingout on Twitter and Facebook and @playingoutcic on Instagram, use #playingout to help people see they are part of something bigger. We will re-share and help amplify your work.
- Support and amplify any parent and resident social media locally.
- Parents are often reached through Facebook or Instagram.
- If a parent or group of residents wants to set up a Playing Out Facebook group for your area, really encourage them to do so and make the most of their own local networks!