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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Help build the policy case for play

kids playing on big letters spelling play

Playday, Bristol City Council

This post asks for your help in building the case for play. I am writing a report – aimed at Government – that gathers together evidence for the difference that play facilities and initiatives can make to children, families and communities. And I need your help in pulling together this evidence. I hope you agree this is an important and urgent task, given the scale of recent cuts to play facilities.

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Tackling the playground claim culture

Accident helpline adYesterday’s Daily Mail ran a story about risk with a familiar headline: “Schoolchildren compensation claims for playground injuries running into millions, with thousands paid out for falling over or getting hit by a ball.” In fact, the headline was highly misleading, as the claims did not just cover playgrounds. Nonetheless, on the face of it some of the incidents – an eye injury from a ball, or a fall on snow and ice – suggest an over-reaction (though even here, the devil is in the detail). Whatever the truth about the level of claims, fear of litigation is a big driver of risk aversion around children’s play, as I know from my talks and workshops. So how should schools, councils, charities and businesses respond to this fear?

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Play services decimated by cuts

Gate locked with chain Public play facilities have suffered huge cuts in the last 3 years. New data shows that spending by English local authorities fell by nearly 40 per cent between 2010 and 2013. Revenue spending has been even more badly hit, falling by over 60 per cent. As a result, almost one in three councils have closed at least one play facility.

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Is snow the ultimate plaything?

Over sixty years ago the architect Aldo van Eyck, who weaved outdoor play into the fabric of war-torn Amsterdam, was inspired by seeing how, after a snowfall, children came out of their homes and claimed the city’s spaces for themselves. Even today nothing gets children of all ages out of doors faster, or in greater numbers, than a decent layer of newly fallen snow.

Why is fresh snow such a universal draw? Surely the answer lies in its exceptional qualities as a material for construction and destruction. The invitations, offers and affordances of snow are extensive, inclusive and democratic. Anyone capable of moving their arms and legs can make a snow angel. No assembly instructions are required.

snow angel

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Not culture, not history – physical change

Tim Gill:

“Their marvellous environments for cycling did not appear out of nowhere – they are not some innate condition of being ‘Dutch’.” An important history lesson for those of us arguing for more child-friendly streets.

Originally posted on As Easy As Riding A Bike:

I was struck by two details from yesterday’s blogpost by Mark Wagenbuur, about early protests for child-friendly streets in Amsterdam in the 1970s – details that highlight the importance of the quality of the physical environment for enabling cycling, over and above any prevailing national culture or attitudes.

The first instance was the contentiousness of the changes being proposed to the streets in Mark’s post. One Dutchman, surrounded by children, argued that it was ‘impossible’ to create a street without motor traffic on it. You can see this in the video, about 2:30 in.

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These were residential streets, which now have motor traffic filtered out, as Mark describes in his post. This is an almost universal treatment across residential areas in the Netherlands now, but back then, the notion of doing this was evidently completely foreign to this gentleman. These streets were for driving. (These attitudes were reflected…

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