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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Child-on-child sexual violence: are the media – and the Children’s Commissioner – guilty of scaremongering?

Screengrab of Daily Telegraph websiteYesterday’s Daily Telegraph ran a story with a headline that was disturbing by any measure. It read “‘Chilling’ levels of child-on-child rape in Middle England.” The story takes its cue from the launch of three reports from the Children’s Commissioner for England, published yesterday as part of the agency’s wider inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups.

It is hard to imagine a more disturbing crime than the sexual exploitation of children by other children. Moreover, it is plausible to argue – as the reports do – that the problem is at risk of being overshadowed by concerns about other forms of child sexual abuse. Nonetheless, the claim that such crimes are widespread is striking.

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Whose fire is it anyway?

Fire in churchyardThis post looks at fires, the value of fire in children’s play and learning, and the sometimes problematic attitudes and actions of the fire authorities. It starts with a personal anecdote. (Its timing on Bonfire Night is kind of coincidental, but kind of not.)

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Chief Medical Officer prescribes play and risk as well as pills

Sally DaviesThe call by Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Government’s top health advisor, for children to be given vitamin pills has kick-started another lively debate about the health of our nation’s children (this morning I switched on my radio to hear film-maker David ‘Project Wild Thing’ Bond flying the flag for nature, not pills, on BBC Five Live with Nicky Campbell). But that was just one media-friendly recommendation taken from 15 chapters and appendices of material. A closer look at the report shows a more thoughtful set of prescriptions, with some significant and positive messages about the value of outdoor play and the need for a balanced approach to risk. This post is a public service. Its aim is to relay some of the CMO’s messages, so that advocates for play and the outdoors can quickly find and make use of them.

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Is technology the enemy of an outdoor childhood?

iPhone banTechnology has an ever greater role in children’s lives, and its effects are the focus of ever more heated debate. It is easy for advocates of nature, outdoor play and everyday childhood freedoms to think that screens and gadgets are our enemy. But the truth is that things are a little more complicated than that.

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