It is vital for their physical and emotional development and for their social learning. It is also a human right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It allows for truly child-led free play, providing important benefits over structured, organised activities in designated spaces.
A 2007 poll found that 71% of adults played out on their street every day compared to only 21% of children today (Playday).
Many homes do not have gardens and in cities these tend to be small. Many children can’t get to parks and other open spaces easily whereas the street is instantly accessible.
It brings neighbours of all ages together by providing a sense of common space and shared ownership. It can engender a sense of collective responsibility and thereby increase the safety of the neighbourhood.
These are often across age groups, or with children that go to other schools. Playing out also increases contact between children and adults, helping to build up familiarity and trust.
They learn important social skills and they gain understanding about the world around them. They do this through dealing independently with situations as they arise.
Parents can get on with housework or looking after other children in the house while allowing children to play outside. Children are far more likely to play outside every day if allowed to play near their home, rather than relying on parents to take them somewhere else, like the park.
The ability to play independently in the street is a first step towards greater independent mobility around the neighbourhood – to visit friends, go to the park or walk to school.
To see them only as places to drive and park cars is to massively undervalue them. Streets can and should be places where people can sit, talk, read, play and walk – and even sing and dance if they want to! The only way this will happen is if we start to use them differently.
Do you have worries around children playing out more, or around a playing out session happening where you live? Have a look at this list of possible concerns and our responses. Or if you want to read in more depth about the benefits and barriers to playing out, explore the interesting research and articles we’ve got together.