A vibrant young city is building better neighbourhoods for early childhood. Can it sustain and broaden its impact?

It is not hard to see why early childhood should be a hot topic in Tel Aviv. The city has a booming cohort of young, aspirational parents, and recent unhappy memories of economic decline and falling populations. But why it should latch onto public space – rather than childcare – is less obvious.

The key to the story is a serendipitous, opportunistic partnership with the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF). I have visited three of BvLF’s leading Urban95 cities now (the others being Tirana and Recife). My hunch is that the initiative has had a greater catalytic effect in Tel Aviv than in any of the other cities it has worked in. I visited the city at the end of February 2020 to find out more. Continue reading

Covid-19 and children: what does the science tell us, and what does this mean as the lockdown is eased?

Key points
As this is a longish post – perhaps a 10-minute read – here are the main takeaways:

  • Children are much less likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 than adults, and appear less likely to become infected.
  • Unlike with influenza, it appears that children are not more likely than adults to spread the disease, and may be significantly less likely.
  • There are good grounds for thinking that outdoor environments present a low risk of infection compared to indoor ones, especially where the time spent in close proximity to other people is short.
  • Pandemic control measures are likely to lead to significant collateral damage to children, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children worst affected.
  • Government, local authorities and other public agencies should take a balanced approach to supporting children through the pandemic. They should:
    • Encourage schools and child care centres to take learning activities outdoors, prioritising play and breaks, and maximize outdoor play time, as they reopen.
    • Open all remaining closed parks, review the closure of playgrounds, and take a supportive approach to the oversight of children’s play and socialising in public space.
    • Address the circumstances of disadvantaged children as a matter of urgency.
    • Prioritise children’s active travel to school, to help reduce peak hours congestion.
    • Closely monitor emerging evidence, especially from countries that have relevant experience of relaxing measures.
    • Encourage the public to engage with and understand the evidence base, and keep them informed as it grows.

Introduction
The government’s plans for relaxing the lockdown, including greater freedom to spend time outside, and the possible re-opening of schools, have unsurprisingly generated huge debate. At the same time, evidence is growing on how Covid-19 affects children, and of children’s role in the spread of the disease. This post shares my take on that evidence base and its implications.

'Park closed' sign outside park in Waltham Forest

The post starts with a summary of the clinical and epidemiological evidence base. It then looks at the collateral damage to children of the pandemic control measures. It closes with implications for policy and practice, with a particular focus on children’s play and mobility.

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Academics highlight children’s need for street play during lockdown

As families struggle during the lockdown, Adrian’s post shares a paper from two academics exploring the possibility of opening up residential streets for outdoor play, especially in areas of need.

Policy for Play

There are growing calls this morning for governments and local authorities to urgently look at steps to allow more children to use their local streets for outside play.

A new paper by Prof. Alison Stenning and Dr. Wendy Russell explores the issues around children’s access to space during government restrictions, within the context of the vital importance of play for their wellbeing and resilience.

The paper suggests that rethinking the purpose of residential streets may hold a key to making the lockdown less harmful to children, more bearable for families, and, therefore more sustainable for communities.

Read the full paper here.

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UK Government action on children’s play during the coronavirus crisis

[Update 24 March 2020] Government officials have responded to the open letter on children’s play and the coronavirus outbreak that was pulled together last Friday by Adrian Voce, supported by many leading play organisations, academics and advocates (including me) and reblogged here. Clearly the situation has moved on, with the introduction of more stringent measures, including the closure of playgrounds and restrictions on public gatherings. Adrian’s Policy for Play website gives an update. The original post is below.

Policy for Play

This open letter to the UK government – from play practitioners, researchers, advocates, and industry bodies – urges the Chief Medical Officer and Public Health England to consult with the field on producing clear advice that keeps children and communities safe while still allowing them the opportunities for playing outside that could now be more important than ever.

As researchers, children’s play charities, and advocates for children, we fully support the current policy of social distancing to combat the growing coronavirus pandemic. With yesterday’s announcement of school closures, this now includes millions of families facing an indefinite period of home-schooling, with limited or no childcare. There is understandable uncertainty and anxiety about how they will cope. One major issue is, how will children play?

Space and opportunity to play is essential for children’s mental and emotional wellbeing, social connectedness and resilience. Of course, children can continue to play inside; we…

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Play in the time of coronavirus

Authors: Tim Gill and Penny Wilson

[Updated 25 April 2020 and on previous dates, with new links to other posts, ideas and reflections, plus a few additions (in italic) and deletions (in strikethrough text) to reflect the 23 March 2020 address to the nation from the UK Prime Minister, and subsequent official guidance for England.]

The lives of parents and caregivers around the world are being turned upside down. But amidst all the fear, stress and uncertainty, children of all ages still want – and need – to play.

This post shares some thoughts and ideas on supporting children’s play in these challenging times, bearing in mind that they may need to be indoors, or socially distancing themselves following official guidance if they are outside.

Photo of a painted rock

Photo: Wikipedia (creative commons licence)

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An immodest proposal for Jeff Bezos’s Earth Fund

In case you missed it, the richest person on earth earlier this week announced the world’s biggest fighting fund for the climate crisis. He has not said much about how that $10 billion will be spent. So in a rare display of immodesty, I am going to offer a proposal.

Jeff Bezos Instagram post announcing Earth Fund

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