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Supporting others to do play streets

Whether you’re a community worker or a resident activator, find out how to help others organise play streets or playing out sessions.

Children playing outside a tower block

Regardless of where they live, their background or family situation, all children need to play out for their health and wellbeing. However, for parents who are struggling with lack of time or other challenges, taking action can be difficult or impossible. The right kind of support and encouragement is very important. We hope the following will be useful for anyone wanting to support play streets locally.

For a more in depth look at supporting residents who are facing big disadvantages, please check out our toolkit: Play streets for Community Development.

Get familiar with the process

If you haven’t organised a play street yourself, first watch our four simple steps videos and read our manual for street organisers. It’s essential to understand what the process involves from a resident’s point of view, so you can offer the right kind of support.

Does the council support play streets?

If you don’t need to close a road, ignore this bit and jump down to “Who can provide support?”

But if you are working with a community who wants to do a play street involving a legal road closure, this is the first thing to check. Find out what’s happening near you with our Play Streets map.

If your council is not yet supporting play streets, and you need to close a road for your playing out sessions, the first thing to do is get the council on board. Ideally they will implement a play street policy so residents can open their street for play on a regular basis.

Who can provide support?

Support for residents is best provided by:

Finding interested parents and residents

It’s really key to go where the energy is and not impose play streets where they are not wanted! But people need to hear about the idea before they can get interested, so promotion is key to growing play streets locally. Read our page about promoting play streets generally.

In communities facing disadvantage, you may need to go the extra mile to reach people.

Here are a few ideas we’ve tried or heard about:

  • Community workers who already hold relationships could start a conversation either digitally or in-person, asking “Did you play out when you were young?” “What games did you play?” “What benefits did it bring?” “Would you like your children to play out more?” “What’s getting in the way of that?”
  • Organise a workshop or drop-in event where you show the play streets four simple steps films and talk through any questions or concerns. For workshop resources, just get in touch.
  • Do a ‘pop-up’ play session or chalk challenge in a safe public space – take chalk, hula-hoops and skipping ropes. Encourage children to play freely whilst you chat to their adults about play streets!
  • Organise a school play street outside the local school, to raise awareness of the idea and engage with parents to see if they’d like to do it locally.
  • Please let us know if you have other brilliant ideas for this.

Different levels of support needed

Whilst play streets are ideally ‘resident-led’, a whole range of support is needed depending on people’s needs and circumstances. It’s important to be flexible and responsive and to work alongside residents – to do “with” and not “for” them. To give you an idea of the types of support needed, we have provided a rough overview below.

Level 1: Point and Go!

Some people are really keen and confident. They may already have good local networks, support or ‘social capital’. As long as there is a good council application process, they can just be signposted to our free resources and left to get on with it. These can be the ‘early adopters’ of play streets in an area and help smooth out the process and pave the way for others to follow.

Level 2: A bit of encouragement and support

Others may be keen not have the confidence to go through it all by themselves. Existing play street organisers (perhaps the early adopters in an area) who have energy and time to spare can be brilliant for this light-touch support. Playing Out supports a UK-wide network of local activators they can link up with.

Types of support that can be helpful at this level are:

steward and child riding bike

  • Phone call to talk it all through at the beginning with resident organiser/initiator.
  • Signpost to all the guidance on our website.
  • Help them look at their street layout, plan and risk assess.
  • Go to a first resident meeting.
  • Help them access road closure kit
  • Go to their first play street for moral and practical support.

Level 3: Do it with them (not for them)

Some families face far greater challenges, making it hard to take on anything extra. At this level, you might be putting in quite a bit of extra work to generate resident interest in having a play street. Ideally you will already have built relationships and trust amongst the people you are hoping to get involved. You would be acting as if you were a very encouraging and supportive neighbour on the street itself. The motivation to do it must still be there for the residents, so you’re not delivering it for them, but you are there every step of the way with them. You might do some of the paperwork for them, if form filling or writing is a barrier.

Types of support at this level include:

  • Moral and practical support – talking through different aspects of it and signposting to different parts of our website.
  • Door-knocking and recruiting stewards.
  • Help planning and hosting first neighbour meeting.
  • Help to design and print out flyers and letters.
  • Help filling out the road closure application forms.
  • Help dealing with objections or concerns.
  • Help with practicalities of road closure, signage etc.
  • Help with risk assessment.
  • Liaison with council or police where needed.
  • Advice on any other problems or issues arising.
  • Attending their sessions.
  • Ongoing support and encouragement to keep momentum going.

Street play projects in areas facing greater disadvantage

  • Playing out in tower block estates (or ‘vertical streets’) based on our work in Bristol.
  • Street play initiatives in disadvantaged areas – a report by Tim Gill, independent academic on childhood development.
  • Safer Streets project – we did a project with parents and children in Hartcliffe (South Bristol), one of the most economically disadvantaged communities in England, around the issue of speeding traffic and dangerous driving – a key barrier to children being out. We followed up this project with a series of school streets around the local primary school, where children stayed and played. Over the sessions parents grew more interested in making play streets happen on their roads and spoke about the big barriers. There was a clear need for bigger, ongoing support to make this happen.

If you want to support play streets with a community facing disadvantage, download the Toolkit at the bottom of this page, and get in touch as we have a growing ‘Community of Learning’ around this topic.

How Playing Out can support further

  • Join one of our upcoming inspiring events or online forums!
  • Provide a template budget and role outline for a support worker or paid activator.
  • Provide a workshop plan and materials for training residents.
  • Present play streets/ playing out at your online meeting
  • Talk through project ideas and development.

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children playing on estate