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: Wikipedia (creative commons licence)
How often do you hear that the ‘health and safety culture’ cannot be resisted? That fear of litigation makes people unwilling to accept the slightest possibility of accidents or injuries? The implication is that risk benefit assessment (RBA) – the balanced approach to risk management that I and others have developed – is a waste of time.
My response – that RBA is making a difference, and that the legal benchmark is to be reasonable, not to eliminate all risk – is sometimes met with scepticism or cynicism. “That may be true in theory,” the argument goes. “But in practice, as soon as a child is hurt and a claim comes in, the lawyers and the insurers just pay out, no matter what the merits of the case.”
This is why I am pleased to share the news that the charity Hackney Play Association has successfully fought off a claim after a playground accident, and that RBA was crucial to the outcome. The details were released yesterday on the Play Safety Forum (PSF) website – see below.
An adventure playground in Hackney
It is obvious that children’s play experiences and everyday freedoms are hugely shaped by the places where they live. So anyone who cares about these issues should also be concerned about the qualities of neighbourhoods, towns and cities, and about how they are planned, designed and built.
Human habitats are changing fast. In particular, cities are growing and changing faster than ever before – and more and more children are growing up in cities. How should play advocates, and advocates for more child-friendly places, respond to these changes? This post tries to answer that question.
The post brings together some key strands of my thinking over the years on child-friendliness, outcomes and advocacy. It is a very lightly edited version of my response to a discussion on play and the environment that was initiated by the International Play Association (IPA), of which I am a member. You can find the IPA discussion paper here. Continue reading
Posted in Child-friendliness, Urban planning, Urbanism
Tagged child-friendly cities, children's independent mobility, Enrique Penalosa, International Play Association, Marketta Kyttä, planning policy, play, Rotterdam, sustainability, urban design, urbanism
Let’s say that, like me, you are signed up to the idea that we’ve become too overprotective and anxious about children in their play. What language should we use to make the case for a better approach? In particular, does the word ‘risk’ – for instance, in the term ‘risky play’ – help or not?
UK play advocate Adrian Voce – my successor at what became Play England – has questioned the use of the term ‘risk’. While recognising the progress that has been made on the place of risk in play, he says:
Although ‘risky’ and ‘adventurous’ are, in a sense, synonymous, the latter word has an unarguably more positive meaning. It also captures much better the essence of children at play – wanting to push the boundaries, test their limits and, sure, take some risks – but in the pursuit of fun and excitement, not the reckless endangerment that the term ‘risky play’ can evoke… ‘Risky’ cannot be the most appropriate word to describe the opportunities and environments we want to provide for them, or the practice we adopt in doing so.
Positive news from parliament for the first time in a long time, with the launch of a new report on play from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood. Central to the report is its call for the promotion of play as part of a ‘whole child’ strategy. Read more on the website of Adrian Voce, former director of Play England.
Policy for Play
A Parliamentary report on children’s play, published today, calls for play to be at the centre of a ‘whole child’ approach to health and wellbeing.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood, chaired by Baroness Floella Benjamin, today launches its long-awaited report on children’s play.
Announcing the report, the group says that ‘whilst there is broad consensus about the importance of physical activity in the battle against obesity, play (policy) has lost political momentum in recent years and the report calls for a fresh approach’.
In a statement released alongside the report today, Baroness Benjamin says that the group’s ‘proposals on play are ‘integral to a “whole child” strategy for health and wellbeing and should not be regarded as an “add on”. Of course encouraging children to participate in sport is important, but in practice, not all children are “sporty”. Play benefits children of all ages…
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Can you help me find people whose lives have taken a different direction after going to the Kidzfield at the Glastonbury Festival?
I am doing some work for the Kidzfield organisers, and am looking for stories of the difference it has made over the 21 years since it was created (yes, it came of age last week).