Today, 7th August, is Playday – a nationwide celebration of the importance of play in children’s lives.
Founded in London 26 years ago, Playday has grown into a major annual fixture, with play events all over the country.
Co-ordinated by Play England, Play Wales, Play Scotland and Playboard Northern Ireland, Playday is more than just an excuse to organise some incredible play events. Playday is a campaign, too, which each year highlights a different aspect of children’s play. This year’s theme is ‘Playful Places’. The campaign is calling on people to make sure that the places where children regularly spend time are great places. Children, they argue, should feel welcomed where they live and feel part of their local communities. Public spaces should be designed with children’s play in mind – and in consultation with children themselves.
A survey of 3,000 children and adults, released today to support the Playday campaign, found that intolerant attitudes and a dearth of dedicated community spaces are preventing children from playing out where they live.
Half of adults reported playing out at least seven times a week when they were growing up. That’s compared to just a quarter of children today.
1 in 4 adults said that intolerant neighbours are a major barrier to stopping children playing out. 28% of parents said that they fear being judged by their neighbours if they let their children play unsupervised outdoors.
A fifth of children polled said that more spaces to play in the local community would get kids playing out more.
We’re really enthusiastic about Playday. A number of National Trust places are holding free play events today. Earlier this week on the Outdoor Nation blog, Leonora Harbord, Play Manager at Belton House in Lincolnshire, wrote about what Belton are doing to celebrate Playday 2013, running fun events and opening up the adventure playground to children big and small.
‘Giving children the freedom to play how they wish will only heighten their sense of adventure’, Leonora says, ‘making them question and explore the world around them. Experiences make us who we are and play is one big experience that we can’t ignore in child development.’
Playing outdoors boasts some incredible benefits for children and communities: from tackling obesity levels to reducing juvenile crime rates. According to the most recent Playday survey, 40% of adults think that children playing out where they live improves community spirit.
As the last year’s Natural Childhood report showed, outdoor play can also serve to spark children’s interest in the natural world. With today’s children more disconnected from nature than ever before, it’s vital that we get more children playing outdoors.
But, as the recent Playday survey indicates, the barriers to children getting playing out are formidable. They range from busy roads and a lack of quality areas to play in, to a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to children and young people playing and hanging out in local communities.
As members of The Wild Network, the National Trust is working alongside Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales and Playboard Northern Ireland, to tackle some of these barriers to getting kids outdoors.
Look out for the new film-led campaign, Project Wild Thing: reconnecting kids with nature, launching on 25th October, which seeks to draw attention to children’s disconnection from nature and build a movement committed to reconnecting the nation’s children with the outdoors. It is supported by The Wild Network, an open, collaborative movement of over 180 organisations committed to reconnecting children and nature.
But between now and October there’s plenty to do: head off to a Playday event this week, camp out this weekend for the RSPB’s Big Wild Sleepout, enter our Wild Time Challenge and complete 25 of the ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ before the summer’s out.