Playing out in the street after school used to be an everyday experience for children who made friends, learnt new games and got to know their street and neighbourhood safely. Today few children get this chance and parents worry about the dangers of letting their children play out. The street is no longer seen an acceptable space for children to play in and as traffic has increased children have lost the confidence and ability to use the street where they live for free play.
A 2007 survey found that whilst 71% of adults recalled playing out independently, only 21% of children do today*.
However, a wealth of research points to the benefits of children experiencing independent play regularly. These include increased physical activity, developing social skills and better community cohesion. The project organisers, Alice Ferguson and Amy Rose, have run the six Bristol sessions to give their local community the chance to see for themselves the benefits of street play and the results have been impressive.
“Adults have been present to keep an eye on things but the children have relished the chance to play freely in their street and invent their own games,” explains Alice Ferguson. “Popular activities have included scooting, cycling, hopscotch, chalking and even stilt-walking. It’s been heartening to see how much the playing out sessions have brought different generations and residents together. Older residents have shared their memories of street games and taught skipping rhymes and other forgotten games to the younger ones.”
Alice and Amy are now launching a website to give inspiration and advice to people keen to organise a playing out session in their own street. The website www.playingout.net will go live in September 2010 and will be a practical resource giving all the information needed to create a safe, fun and neighbourly playing out event anywhere in the country.
“The Playing Out project challenges the idea that children do not belong on the streets to play these days,” says Alice. “We want to share our experiences and help others create a chance for street play that the whole neighbourhood can benefit from.”
The Playing Out project is supported by Active Bristol. Active Bristol is a programme of work to support physically active lives through the promotion of walking, cycling, active play and use of green spaces.
For more information contact Naomi Fuller 07985 776132
*Source: Play England 2007 (ICM survey)