Play streets

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Support others to do play streets

Whether you’re from a council, a community organisation or you’re a resident activator, find out what you need to know to support residents to organise play streets.

Before thinking about what support you need to provide, make sure you have watched and read through the short films and guides we offer to residents. It’s essential to understand what the process involves from the residents’ point of view so you can offer the right kind of support and signposting.

Children and adults playing game on green space near estateChildren scooting and running in the rain in the road

Regardless of where they live or what kind of background or family they come from, all children need to play out for their health and wellbeing. For those children where family life is more challenging, this is even more important. However, it can be more difficult for parents who are struggling with other challenges, so the right levels of support are very important.

Does your council support play streets?

Find out what’s happening near you with our Play Streets map.

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

If your council is not yet supporting play streets, and you definitely want to close the road for your playing out sessions, the first thing to do is get them on board, so that you know there is definitely a way for residents to apply to close their road to play out.

Once you know that there is a way to apply to close the road (ideally regularly as part of a universal council policy), you can work with residents to make it happen!

Who can provide support?

Support for residents is best provided by:

  • a peer (activator role) who has direct experience of organising play streets
  • someone known and trusted locally from a community organisation
  • housing association community workers
  • council community workers

Parents and residents need different levels of support to organise play streets

Some parents and residents will just need a good council application process and signposting to all our free resources and they will get on with it. However, many others will need a bit of encouragement. There’s a range of support required, so it’s important to be flexible and responsive to individual needs and circumstances.

To give you an idea, we have provided a rough overview of two different levels below.

Level 1 – a bit of encouragement and support
Some parents and residents may be keen but might not have the confidence to go through it all by themselves. They will need some in-person support. If you have any existing play street organisers who are interested in helping spread the magic, they could be brilliant for this activator role. Peer to peer support is the most powerful and effective type. Playing Out supports a network of UK-wide activators so you can link them up with us also.

Level 1 – Types of supportsteward and child riding bike

  • Phone call to talk it all through at the beginning with resident organiser.
  • Signposting to all the guidance on our website.
  • Organise a Playing Out training/ workshop for residents – contact us for a template workshop plan
  • Help them look at their street layout, plan and risk assess.
  • Help with a resident meeting.
  • Help with steward briefings.
  • Go to their first session for moral and practical support.

Level 2 – do it with them (not for them)
Some families have 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.

How to find interested parents and residents

Read our page about promoting play streets generally.

For residents in areas of 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 have the best summer this year?”.
  • You could organise a workshop or drop-in event where you show the play streets four simple steps films (you could also simply share that link on the social media channels you are using). For workshop resources, just get in touch.
  • 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.

Level 2 – types of on the ground support

  • 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.

Examples of street play projects in areas of disadvantage

  • Supporting playing out in tower block estates (or ‘vertical streets’) – we did a pilot project in Bristol.
  • Tim Gill report – Street play initiatives in disadvantage areas. Tim Gill is an independent academic on childhood development.
  • Safer Streets project – we did a project with parents and children in Hartcliffe (South Bristol), one of the most 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 develop a play streets project in an area of disadvantage, get in touch as we can talk through ideas with you and maybe work together.

How Playing Out can support further

  • Provide a template budget and role outline for a support worker or paid activator.
  • Provide a workshop plan and materials for training residents.
  • Online training for you / a group of residents.
  • Talk through project ideas and development.
children playing on estate

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