A timely, heartfelt yet reasoned response to recent political comment on children’s right to play, which I am happy to put my name to. Please share far and wide – and more importantly, please raise the issue with your local candidates. My thanks to Adrian, and to Penny Wilson of Play Association Tower Hamlets, for their hard work in pulling this together.
Policy for Play
Over 100 playworkers and play advocates have united to refute the UKIP claim that immigration stops children playing out together, and to highlight the real reasons for the decline in outdoor play.
This is a copy our letter, which is being sent to 3000 election candidates today, calling for government support for community play.
Play advocates are encouraged to adapt it with local examples and quotes from families to use in local campaigns*
*Please remove signatories if the letter is altered in any way.
Following the recent assertion, from Nigel Farage of UKIP, that immigration divides communities to the extent that children can no longer play outside together, we would like to assure you that in our experience of supporting community play over many years, this is not true.
We would, however, like to highlight evidence of the real barriers to outdoor play.
Play is in some…
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Today a call goes out to all UK political parties to invest in children’s play because of the proven benefits to children, families and communities. The call comes from the Children’s Play Policy Forum (CPPF), which brings together the leading UK agencies with an interest in play.
It is good to be reminded of the value of life’s simplest pleasures. Like the pleasure of feeling your suspended body sway smoothly through space on a swing. Swinging is an act of effortless grace: rising and falling on a fixed arc that flows first with, then against the pull of gravity.
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.
Here is a true gem from the archives of play: extended video footage of Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen is the foremost figure in the history of children’s play in the UK (I reviewed her classic Planning for Play – available as a pdf from the marvellous Playscapes blog – in a previous post). The video focuses on the staffed adventure playgrounds Lady Allen created in the 1960s and 1970s to provide play opportunities for disabled children, some of which continue today under the management of the charity Kids.
Some health warnings: at times the language used in the video to describe the children is old-fashioned, inappropriate, and even offensive to today’s ears – though in Lady Allen’s day the terms were standard. Also, the video is somewhat grainy and jumpy. Oh – and Lady Allen’s accent could cut glass at 20 paces. But do not let any of this put you off, or you will miss out on as clear a manifesto for adventurous play as you are ever likely to see.
On my visit to Moscow last week, I witnessed an intriguing sight as I was crossing a bridge near the city centre. A little girl and her mother were walking towards me. As they went past, the girl stooped down to make a snowball, and then she threw it playfully towards her mother. Not very noteworthy, you may think – except that it was minus 6 degrees Centigrade, with a biting wind and eight lanes of Moscow traffic roaring by just metres away from us. You could not have asked for a clearer example of children’s appetite for play, regardless of their circumstances. So how well does Russia’s capital satisfy that appetite – how child-friendly is it?
Posted in Mobility, Outdoor play, Public policy, Urban planning, Urbanism
Tagged child-friendly cities, mobility, Moscow, planning policy, play, public-space, Russia, urban design, urbanism