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Research, articles, reports

Research on play streets, playing out and related topics, including childhood, play, community, streets and cities.

Tackling Loneliness with Resident-Led Play Streets Final Report
Tackling Loneliness with Resident-Led Play Streets

Published March 2020.

Research conducted by Professor Alison Stenning of Newcastle University, in collaboration with Playing Out. Based on in-depth interviews and questionnaires with over 60 residents on ‘playing out’ streets.

Summary of findings and recommendations: Play streets significantly increase connections between neighbours of all ages, also increasing a sense of security and ‘belonging’. With the right support from councils and government, they could contribute to alleviating loneliness and isolation on a national scale.

Playing Out: A Grassroots Street Play Revolution

Published March 2019

Case study of Playing Out, setting out the background and context for this modern parent-led street play movement, providing evidence of its impact for children and communities and arguing for the restoration of street play as a normal part of a happy, healthy urban childhood.

Why temporary street closures make sense for public health

Published July 2017

Research led by Professor Angie Page, University of Bristol, concludes that this low-cost, grassroots model could make “a meaningful contribution to children’s physical activity levels”, with children three to five times more active during playing out sessions than they would be on a ‘normal’ day after school.

Using GPS and accelerometers, it was found that children were outdoors for a large proportion (>70%) of the time the streets were closed and spent on average 16 minutes per hour in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). This outdoor, active play was more likely to replace sedentary and screen-based activities, than physical activities.

Street play initiatives in disadvantaged areas

Published July 2017

This report by Tim Gill is based on interviews with people involved in street play activity across five local authorities. It highlights the common barriers to residents trying to organise street play sessions and some particular factors – challenges and positives – relating to resident-led street play in areas of higher deprivation.

Hartcliffe report cover
Gathering learning and engaging Hareclive children around play

Published April 2016

A project working with Hareclive Academy School, and Room 13 exploring play with children and parents.

Childhood and Free Play

No Fear

Tim Gill (2007), No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Free download

Our Children Deserve Better

Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2012- Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays, Department of Health – including a case study of Playing Out (chapter 7, page 11). Download it here

Playday 2013

Play England (2013) Playday 2013  Opinion Poll Results

A UK-wide opinion poll was conducted to support and inform the Playday 2013 Playful places campaign. Results reveal that unwelcoming communities are stopping children playing out as much as they would like in the streets and areas where they live. Read more here

Making it our place

Josie Gleave (2010), Making it our place: Community views on Children’s Play, Play England

Research for Playday 2010 finds that children have less freedom to play in their communities than previous generations and concludes a shift in attitudes towards children and young people is needed for them to become valued and active citizens in our communities. Download it here

Word on the Street

Amanda Henshall and Lauren Lacey (2007), Word on the street – children and young people’s views on using local streets for play and informal recreation, Play England. Download it here

Natural Childhood

Stephen Moss (2012), Natural Childhood, National Trust. This report argues that we as a nation, and especially our children, are exhibiting the symptoms of a modern phenomenon known as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. It looks at what this disorder is costing, why it’s proving so difficult to reverse, and gathers current thinking on what might be done to eliminate it. Download it here

The Overprotected Kid

Hanna Roisin (2014), The Overprotected Kid, The Atlantic Magazine.

Hanna Roisin’s realisation that her ten year old had never spent ten minutes without adult supervision set her thinking about how childhood had been stripped of independence.  Here she looks at a place that is challenging that – The Land adventure playground in north Wales. Read about it here

Streets, Traffic and Independent Mobility

From “streets for traffic” to “streets for people”: can street experiments transform urban mobility?

Luca Bertolini, published May 2020, Transport Reviews Journal.

The re-marking of streets, re-purposing of car parking, re-purposing of sections of streets, and re-purposing of entire streets. The reviewed literature documents positive impacts on physical activity, active transportation, safety and social interaction and capital, and more mixed impacts on business activity.
Includes Playing Out as a case study.
Read it here


Children’s Rights and Adults’ Wrongs

Mayer Hillman (2006), Children’s Rights and Adults’ Wrongs, Children’s Geographies, Vol. 4, No. 1, 61 –67.

How road traffic has impacted children’s freedom and pushed them out of streets and public space.

Street Reclaiming Strategies

Trine Fotel (2009), Marginalized or Empowered? Street Reclaiming Strategies and the Situated Politics of Children’s Mobilities, Geography Compass, Volume 3, Issue 3, pages 1267–1280.  Read it here

Can I Play Out?

Tim Gill (2007), Can I Play Out? Lessons from London Play’s Homezone Project, London Play Download it here

Containing Children

Roger Hart (2002), Containing children: some lessons on planning for play from New York City, Environment and Urbanization 2002 14: 135. A look at playground provision in New York and how what may be needed is not more playgrounds which segregate children from daily life, but a greater attempt to make neighbourhoods safe and welcoming for children, responding to their own preferences for free play close to home. Download it here

Reclaiming the Residential Street as Play Space

Paul J. Tranter and John W. Doyle (1996), Reclaiming The Residential Street As Play Space, International Play Journal 1996, 4, 91-97. Read it here

New York City: Streets Renaissance Campaign

New York City: Streets Renaissance Campaign

Streets As Places To Play – Reviving An Old New York City Tradition.  Part of the Play Matters Study of Best Practices in Children’s Play in the US (pages 89-95)  Download the report here

You can also find more research about the Playful City USA, which ran from 2007-2017 here

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