Evidence is vital in making the case for play

Yesterday brought more news of a looming public health crisis. Over one in three English adults has pre-diabetes (blood glucose levels that place them at significant risk of full-blown type 2 diabetes) according to a new academic study. What is more, the proportion has more than tripled between 2003 and 2011.

Diabetes is already a huge public health problem. According to Diabetes UK, nearly one-tenth of the NHS budget (£12 billion a year) is spent on treating type 2 diabetes: lest we forget, a largely preventable illness.

Two children on tyre swingBeing more physically active cuts the risk of type 2 diabetes. Physically active children are more likely to grow up to be physically active adults. And there is robust evidence that improving outdoor play opportunities boosts children’s physical activity levels. (I will say more on this when my evidence report is published shortly.) All of which adds up to a compelling public health case for investment in play provision. So why are play advocates not saying more about the contribution we can make to the nation’s physical health?

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Hurt, blame, stupidity: when being a free-range parent does not go to plan

In this weekend’s Guardian, columnist Tim Lott writes about how his seven-year-old daughter ended up in hospital with a nasty injury after a cycling accident that was entirely his fault. He had been giving her a lift on the back of his bike, and her foot got horribly caught up in the wheel.

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Could this be the most play-literate PR video ever?

A couple of weeks ago the UK laundry brand Persil (known in many parts of the world as Omo) released a set of short videos called ‘Kids Today’. The aim is to give parents insights into the intrinsic value of play, using ‘point of view’ cameras to bring the viewer closer to the world as seen through children’s eyes. Here is the first, entitled ‘Play Face’.

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Hidden woods: a graceful, punchy reminder of the power of natural places

This video (words by Hollie McNish, video by film maker Ben Dowden) stopped me short with its power and rhythm, and the interplay between words and images.

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Building the case for play: help me fill the gaps

First, I would like to thank everyone who has responded so far to my appeal last month for evidence to build the policy case for play. The material I have received has almost without exception fitted my brief. But there are gaps, so I am putting out one last call for help.

Playday, Bristol City Council

Playday, Bristol City Council

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Is technology killing children’s play culture, or breathing new life into it?

Just before Christmas, I was helping out at an after-school play session in a community centre in Tower Hamlets in East London. Eight-year-old Jane arrived, took a plastic mug from the kitchen, sat down at a table near me, and started clapping her hands and the table, and tapping and flipping the cup, in a repetitive, rhythmic routine.

Cup on a table in front of a boy

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Corporate ad campaign embraces risk-taking by children

If you want to be really sure of a change in social attitudes, wait until it is picked up by corporate advertising. With this maxim in mind, I was intrigued to see this new video from the global household products corporation Procter and Gamble.

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