Taking time out for some sandcastle building during last year's Playday!
Play England found there is a profound loss of community spirit in Britain, which in turn is leading to children no longer being able to play outside. I have to wonder what has led to this lack of togetherness, and is it really the only reason why children don’t play outdoors any more?
In 2005 I returned to the UK after four years of living and working abroad. Bringing a six-year-old and a one-year-old back to the UK I became acutely aware of the lack of children on our streets. I noticed the ever-growing perception that children are ‘in danger’ if out of the sight of a parent, and we experienced the lack of play provision in many areas.
As I have written before, the evidence to support our multiple fears is not there. There have not been increases in child abductions and murders, compared to 20 or 30 years back, but there has been an increase in media coverage.
Playday 2010’s campaign theme is ‘Our Place’. Play England’s research states almost half of adults surveyed think it’s unsafe for children to play without supervision. However when 73% of children want to play outside more where they live, isn’t it our role as adults to enable this play in our home environments rather than install fear? I believe it is up to us to take note of these facts and figures, and to support the reinvigoration of community spirit by positively reinforcing the value of play.
It’s also encouraging to learn that the new ministerial Childhood and Families Task Force, chaired by the Prime Minister, has made Playful communities one of its priority areas – this is great news and I look forward to reading their conclusions, which are expected at the end of the year.
Taking time out to play today is just one in a series of steps to change our communities for the better. For Playday, I will be around the museum getting messy, crafty and active. We’re celebrating the right of all children to play, will you?
Rebecca Johnson is Play and Learning Director for Eureka! The National Children's Museum.