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Playing out on estates

Traffic is not the only barrier to children playing out. Often housing estates have great and safe physical spaces but there may be other things stopping children from using them…

Barriers to playing out on estates

Unlike on most city streets, children living in high rise estates often have car-free space right on their doorstep. Low-rise estates may have very quiet streets, driveways or small patches of grass. But despite this, children living on estates are sometimes not able to play out as much as they would like to – or at all.

In our work with tower-block estates in Bristol, we found there were many reasons for this, including parental concerns about safety and a general sense that the space is not “theirs” to play in.

Play ‘bans’

Unfortunately, we also regularly hear from parents where a housing provider, landlord or council has ‘banned’ children from playing out on their estate. If this is a problem you are facing, we can help. Adapt this template letter for responding to a ‘play ban’, or use this open letter from Playing Out to housing providers. Do also contact us if you want to talk things through.

A ‘playing out’ model for high rise estates

Over the past few years, we’ve been working with residents in Bristol tower blocks to see if a version of the play street model could help change things for children. We’ve found that many of the features of the street-based model apply in this setting, even without closing a road. For example:

  • A set time to play out together
  • Using existing / underused space on the doorstep
  • Making the space safe
  • Child-led free play
  • Simple, low-cost, sustainable
  • Low-key adult presence
  • Neighbour-led

Positive outcomes

Many of the positive outcomes are also the same as on a street:

  • Children are active, have fun & make friends
  • Bringing neighbours together; breaking down barriers
  • Building active citizenship
  • Making children and play visible and changing attitudes

While there have been some barriers to sessions becoming completely resident-led (not to mention issues with council building works, but that’s another story), there are signs that more informal, ad-hoc playing out is happening as a result of the sessions and the increased community cohesion.

We also helped residents to make some low-cost, ‘DIY’ changes to their space, to make it feel more welcoming and used.

You can read the full report on this project here.

If you want to do anything to help children to play out on estates and want to discuss it or need a bit of help or encouragement, do get in touch!

More information

Watch Angela’s presentation at our supporting residents webinar on her experience of enabling outdoor play on Bristol estates:

Do also check out this video on the Find Your Village project in Bristol from the Brigstowe Institute:

Next steps…

Based on learning from this project, we have created guidance for residents and community workers supporting others to do play streets, and a downloadable toolkit for people working to support children and families in areas facing greater disadvantage. The model can quite easily be adapted for estates, following the four simple steps to playing out – and missing out the road closure application if it’s not needed!  We’d love to hear how you get on.

We are also working with housing providers to encourage them to develop pro-play policies and remove No Ball Games signs.

children playing on estate

Want to learn more?

Read the Estates project report