Why street play is a great thing for children
What are play streets?
Play streets (or ‘playing out’ sessions) are neighbour-led short road closures, creating a safe space for children to play freely together on their doorstep. On high-rise estates, you may not even need to close the road!
Play streets typically allow children to play freely, without organised games or activities*. In practice, this means children cycle, scoot, skate, chalk, skip, hopscotch, kick a ball around and make up games. They are joyous and active!
This model was first developed by parents (co-founders of Playing Out) on one street in Bristol in 2009 and has now been taken up by hundreds of street communities all over the UK – and beyond – supported by councils and local organisations.
To read more about play streets in the light of Covid-19, see here.
The key features of this model are:
- Resident-led and organised
- Short, regular road closures
- Free, child-led play*
- All neighbours consulted and included
- Road legally and safely closed to through traffic
- Stewarded by residents
- Car access at walking pace
- Simple, ‘normal’ – not a street party!
How it works
With council permission and general consensus from neighbours, residents legally close the road to through-traffic, using ‘Road Closed’ signs and cones, or other barriers such as wheelie-bins. Residents still have vehicle access and can leave their cars parked on the road. Volunteer stewards (usually residents) stand at each end of the street and walk in front of any moving vehicles to keep it safe.
Councils can put a ‘play street policy’ in place, allowing residents to apply for a regular – weekly, monthly, or even daily – play street session. Bristol City Council was the first to do this in the UK (in 2011). Since then, many others have done the same, seeing the benefits for children and communities.
What do they do?
Play streets give children a chance to play, be active and make friends on their street, whilst also building community and encouraging active citizenship. As well as these immediate benefits, they can help to bring about a longer-term culture-change, where streets are safer and friendlier and it is more normal for children to play out. Read more about the impact of play streets here.
How can Playing Out help?
We now have over ten years’ experience in organising play street sessions and supporting others to do the same, both on the ground in Bristol and through our network of local ‘activators’ across the UK. There’s not a type of street, issue, problem, question or concern we haven’t come across! If you can’t find the answer you need on this website, please get in touch.
During this time, we have also helped many councils to get their policies right (to make it as easy as possible for residents), so we have a good understanding of the issues from that side too. Our resources for councils should provide you with all you need to develop a good play street policy but we are also happy to talk things through.
As well as all the resources on here and providing individual support where needed, we run regular training and webinars on play streets aimed at parents, activists, councils and community organisations.