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How we get our play street numbers

Tens of thousands of children and adults have been positively impacted by play streets. Here’s how we work out our numbers.

Children of different ages playing in a residential street

Playing Out wants a future where children playing out near home is normal, expected and encouraged. Until we reach that wider goal, our aim is for anyone to be able to organise play streets / playing out sessions where they live. The numbers involved are important for proving the impact we are having and the need for change.

Gathering data

Keeping track isn’t easy; we only know what’s happening if someone comes to us to celebrate success or for more in-depth support – or if local organisations share their data with us. The play street model itself is also flexible and resident-led, so the number of people, session length, frequency etc. all vary depending on the built environment and people involved.

As a very small team supporting a national movement, we need to be smart about our resources. Our numbers are based on firm data, research and feedback coming directly from Local Authorities, local groups and play streets organisers wherever we can get it – but there is no large scale reporting system or obligation for data to be shared. This means our numbers are extremely conservative – the absolute minimum. If you have thoughts on clever ways to get data, we are always open to ideas so please get in touch! 

How we work out our numbers

It is important to recognise the deep and diverse impact of play streets. A single play street represents the journey of a whole street community: forming connections; building confidence; reclaiming the space on their doorstep; supporting children to play out. One play street impacts many different people in a multitude of ways.

Through the results of our ‘on the ground’ work in Bristol, regular national surveys (2017, 2019 and 2021) and reporting from local community groups, we use the following averages for each street community: 

  • 2-hour sessions 
  • 12 sessions a year 
  • 2-year lifespan of play street
  • 15 children at each session
  • 15 adults actively involved over the lifespan of a play street
  • 30 children benefitting over the lifespan of a play street

Based on the information we have; we can calculate several things:

  • Number of adults actively involved in play streets = number of streets x 15
  • Number of children benefitting from play streets = number of streets x 30
  • Number of “play hours” created through play streets
  • Number of adult volunteer hours

Given the proven impact of play streets, this means as long as the number of play streets is known, we can have a good idea about the number of children to benefit in terms of health and wellbeing; the number of more active citizens; and the number of stronger, more connected communities.

Play hours

Using all of the above, we can also roughly estimate the number of extra outdoor “play hours” playing out children gain through play streets. Research has shown that children are very active during play streets, so these play hours are also hours of physical activity.

Number of street communities x avg. sessions per street over its play street “lifetime” x avg. hours per session x avg. number of children at each session

So, one street, across 2-years is equal to:

  • 1 street x 24 sessions x 2 hours per session x 15 children at each session = 720 play hours
  • 1500 streets (Dec 2022 total) x 24 sessions x 2 hours per session x 15 children at each session = over 1million play hours!

Volunteer hours

Resident-led play streets also involve huge amount of “volunteer time” from adults: initiating the idea; getting the community on board; applying for permissions; stewarding sessions and keeping it going. This action is taken by parents and residents to create change on their doorstep, within their own communities, and is unpaid.

Based on our years of work in Bristol and nationally, this is what we would use as an estimate over the lifetime of an average play street (24 sessions over 2 years):

  • Main organisers, to initiate, involve the community and make it happen = 30hrs 
  • Main organisers, to ensure each session happens (24 sessions x 4hrs) = 96hrs 
  • Stewards (4 adults per session x 24 sessions x 2hrs) = 192hrs
  • Total volunteer hours per play street = 318hrs

The Monetary value of volunteer time (costed at £10/hr) = £3,180 per play street.

Numbers on a local scale

How we calculate our numbers can be used to make the case for play streets locally, alongside our more qualitative evidence of impact. If you use our calculations, please let us know how you get on. We’d love to hear your feedback.

Play Streets Impact: Residents' Survey Report (2021)

Read here