Through talking about the idea on doorsteps and organising playing out sessions, parents and neighbours of all ages get to meet each other, exchange views and build more understanding. At the sessions themselves, children get to make new friends and playmates of different ages and backgrounds, often from different schools. They also get to know different trusted adults on their street.
As a result, the whole street is a safer, friendlier place to live for everyone, including older people. As one Bristol street organiser said: “We’ve all got to know each other. Our street is quite long and I’d never met a lot of my neighbours since we go to different schools. Since playing out, our street now has two book clubs and we meet regularly. There’s definitely a change in the atmosphere. People stop and say hello.”
In our 2017 survey of playing out streets, 91% agreed that they know more people on their street as a result, and 84% said they now feel they belong more in their neighbourhood. Research now shows that both of these contribute to health and well-being.
Knowing more adults whom they can turn to and trust is important for children as they grow up and start to make independent journeys. Parents and carers on playing out streets have said how much better they feel about letting their children go to the shop, a friend’s house or the park because of this.
And it’s not only the view of residents. The police too, see the way street play can help build stronger, safer communities. Chief Inspector Kevan Rowlands of Avon and Somerset Police says: “Crime and anti-social behaviour will not thrive in strong communities. The benefits of playing out sessions go way beyond the fun the children have. It is the community coming together to achieve something they can see and hear that really makes the difference. Getting to know each other, understand each other, trust each other and develop a sense of community achieves much more to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour than patrolling police officers can.”