Wilderness fears as play experts warn children’s fun must not be curtailed by unmown grass

‘…Marguerite Hunter Blair, chief executive of Play Scotland, fears the move may discourage children from playing in parks.

She said: “Parks should be managed primarily for public access and recreation. Some wilder spaces in public parks may be good for biodiversity, but they must be no less accessible and safe for children’s play. For example, the presence of dog faeces and evidence of anti-social behaviour is no more acceptable in wild spaces in parks than it is in intensively managed spaces.

“While making places wilder and increasing access to natural spaces is welcome, it must not be at the expense of children’s outdoor play opportunities. Play Sufficiency Assessments (PSAs) should be carried out to determine local needs.”

Play Scotland successfully campaigned for amendments to the planning act which forced councils to consult children on changes to their local area. The group is working with local authorities to develop guidance for PSAs as part of the implementation of the duty.’

Full article here



NatureScot/Scottish Government Commissioned Research

Key messages

The research highlights some key factors that may have played a role in increasing participation in outdoor recreation in Scotland:

  • patterns laid down in childhood
  • trying outdoor activities as a result of friends or family
  • greater leisure time being available at particular life-stages
  • an increase in dog ownership
  • advice from health professionals
  • technological advances (such as apps and smartwatches)
  • the establishment of more activity-based social groups.

Guiding principles

A set of guiding principles that could help to sustain participation in outdoor activities, and in some cases to widen participation among lower participation groups, were developed on the basis of the research findings using the MAPPS behaviour change framework. These guiding principles can be used to inform the design of interventions to help increase participation in outdoor activities in future.

  • Childhood experiences can strongly influence sustained participation in outdoor activities in adulthood.
  • Availability of good quality, easy to access local spaces helps to facilitate regular participation, while a lack of these can be a barrier in more deprived areas.
  • The physical infrastructure and maintenance of outdoor spaces affects their accessibility, appeal and usage.

Full report here



Play Safety Forum: Covid-19 and Children’s Play July 2021 statement

The UK Play Safety Forum (PSF) has issued two previous statements on the theme of COVID-19 and children’s play, however it seems in some countries children’s play is still being curtailed.

This updated statement outlines key facts about Covid-19 and children’s play, and argues for a balanced approach to decision-making. It builds on previous statements from the PSF and highlights concerns about children’s opportunities for play being reduced.

  • Play Safety Forum: Covid-19 and Children’s Play July 2021 statement

    Play Safety Forum: Covid-19 and Children’s Play July 2021 statement

    The UK Play Safety Forum (PSF) has issued two previous statements on the theme of COVID-19 and children’s play, however it seems in some countries children’s play is still being curtailed. This updated statement outlines key facts about Covid-19 and children’s play, and argues for a balanced approach to decision-making. It builds on previous statements …
    pdf (65.23 KB)



Playful Communities: Evaluation Report

Play Scotland are delighted to release the evaluation report of the Playful Communities Project, which was a partnership with ScrapAntics to enable loose parts play in communities in Dundee.

This project has created a culture of play when it is needed the most, establishing relationships with families and encouraging children to realise their full potential, learn new skills, build resilience and create stronger connections with their family and friends.

Playful Communities has provided a support network for families, putting children’s voices at the forefront, and offered children equal opportunity to socialise and engage in creative, child led play in a safe space during these difficult times.



Participate in Together’s State of Children’s Rights Report survey 2021

Together has released their annual State of Children’s Rights Report survey!

To follow the UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill being passed in March 2021, this year’s report aims to inspire and empower everyone in Scotland ahead of the Bill’s implementation. It will offer practical guidance on implementing children’s rights-based approaches, support on overcoming challenges and case studies of promising practice. The report will be shared with all levels of government, NGOs and professionals.

But Together needs your experiences and expertise to help shape the report! The survey aims to identify:

1. The challenges you have faced (or expect to face) regarding implementing a children’s rights-based approach in your work.

2. Examples of promising practice of children’s rights-based approaches, either from your own work or the work of others

Together will also use the survey findings to help shape a webinar series to be held in autumn. These will be open to Together members to share learning and build their capacity to overcome challenges.

You can access the survey here. On this link you will also find an easy-read and child-friendly version of the survey. Children and young people are encouraged to participate and, where possible, Together ask you to share direct quotes from children and young people in your responses.

This survey will take between approximately 10 minutes and 1 hour, depending on how many questions you choose to answer and how much detail you include. The closing date for participating is July 30th2021.



Parks for People: why should we invest in parks?

Evidence from the Parks for People programme and six case studies uncovers the importance of our parks and how we can support them in future.

Parks for People was a programme offered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund launched in 2006. It aimed to revitalise historic parks and cemeteries in the UK. It supported a total of 135 projects through £254million of funding.

The Parks for People report is an evaluation of the programme which provides clear evidence for the value of investing in parks. It highlights the multiple social benefits that can be achieved by investing in public parks and in the people who bring those parks to life. It can be used to support decision-making about parks investment and to support development of new practices and policy for parks management.

Full report here



Play Scotland Digital Membership and Services Officer

Come and work with us!  Play Scotland are recruiting a Digital Membership and Services Officer.  They will take responsibility for the membership journey and implement an engagement plan and comprehensive membership growth strategy online.

They will be a key member of a small team, organising events and providing digital support to ensure consistent messaging and branding.

We are looking for someone creative, enthusiastic and skilled in communications. If you think this could be for you, please download an application form from below and email the completed version to info@playscotland.org by 4pm on Friday 9th July.

Proposed Interview Date: 16th July 2021 in person or online to be confirme

Application for employment



Covid-19 restrictions impacting children’s play

PlayBoard NI, Stranmillis University College and the Controlled Schools’ Support Council recently embarked on a collaborative research project to examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the quality of play within early years classrooms, as well as the impact on children’s engagement, social interaction and emotional well-being.

The research focused on Nursery and Foundation stage (Years 1 and 2 of primary schooling), with the online survey completed by 291 teachers between January and March 2021.

Over half of respondents (58.6%) felt that restrictions impacted negatively on children in terms of their social skills, their levels of independence, their ability to stay on task and overall enhanced anxiety. However, a sizeable minority (41.4%) indicated that children were more independent in terms of self-care routines, more settled in class, happier and more relaxed, and displayed increased levels of resilience and coping skills.

Over two thirds of teachers felt restrictions, alongside intense cleaning regimes, had impacted negatively on the quality of play, resulting in more sterile play and learning spaces.

Speaking ahead of the report launch, Jacqueline O’Loughlin, PlayBoard Chief Executive said: “As with so many areas of society, Covid-19 brought unprecedented challenges to early years education. Teachers at Nursery and Foundation stages were presented with the unenviable task of managing the risks posed by the pandemic while still ensuring a high-quality playful learning experience for children in practice.”

Jacqueline continued: “We are delighted to have been able to work in partnership with Stranmillis University College and the Controlled Schools’ Support Council in order to identify the impact of Covid-19 on play in the early years, and to establish a number of key recommendations for government as we seek to move back to normality.”

The survey highlighted the high level of creativity, improvisation and dedication invested on the part of early years teachers to ensure that young children have, in the main, continued to enjoy a stimulating, playful and nurturing learning experience, despite the many challenges. Almost two thirds of respondents (65.7%) reported making greater use of the outdoors.

Dr Glenda Walsh, Head of Early Years Education at Stranmillis University College, said: “Although this study has been quite small in scale, it has generated some significant findings and recommendations about the importance of play both indoors and out for young children’s learning and development. The last year has certainly shown us that children need to play more than ever.”

Tracey Woods from the Controlled Schools’ Support Council said: “We are delighted to have contributed to this work which highlights the significant work of schools in facilitating playful learning opportunities that positively impact on children’s educational outcomes and their emotional health and well-being”.

Key recommendations contained within the report are aimed at enhancing the capacity of settings to continue to provide a high-quality playful learning experience in practice. These include the following:

Action 1: Need for greater value to be assigned to play in the home and support parents to develop and extend play within the home environment.
Action 2: Need for further guidance on managing play during the pandemic.
Action 3: Need to prioritise outdoor play and outdoor learning in the school environment post pandemic.
Action 4: Need for professional development in the early years.
Action 5: Need for further research into the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on children’s holistic learning and development.
Action 6: Need to prioritise play more fully in practice across Northern Ireland schools and early years settings post pandemic.

Read Play in Practice during the Pandemic – Nursery and Foundation Stage report here

  • Play in Practice during the Pandemic

    Play in Practice during the Pandemic

    PlayBoard NI, Stranmillis University College and the Controlled Schools’ Support Council recently embarked on a collaborative research project to examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the quality of play within early years classrooms, as well as the impact on children’s engagement, social interaction and emotional well-being.
    pdf (2.90 MB)



Summer of play delivery opportunity in partnership with Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Outdoor learning and play facilitator (ranger)

Notes of interest (including proposed cost) by Friday 11th June to be submitted FAO Suzanne Hermiston via education@rbge.org.uk
Anticipated start date – 21st June 2021


Since March 2020, Scotland (along with other nations of the world) has suffered a global pandemic. Some of those who have felt the impact most greatly are young people – unable to meet with their friends socially or at school, they were instead limited to staying and learning at home, separated from so many social and learning opportunities. As a result, their mental health has suffered and their childhood has been changed forever. The Scottish Government has acknowledged the need to return to simpler times for children, with an initiative entitled ‘Summer of Play’ and associated funding. This acknowledgement brings hope for future generations, as does one of the positives to come out of lockdown – a reconnection with nature.

With the help of government funding, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh hopes to play its part in helping, by introducing its own green recovery programme for children.


The ‘pop up’ garden will reach families in both rural and urban areas through taking part in outdoor play and through supporting online materials. This will allow parents and children to relearn the value of play whilst increasing their interest in nature and subsequently encouraging them to take action against climate change and biodiversity loss.

The mobile event will run over the Scottish school summer holidays (from end of June to mid- August), ‘popping up’ in different locations – linked to the botanic gardens in Edinburgh and their regional gardens at Logan (Galloway), Benmore (Argyll and Bute) and Dawyck (Borders). Regionally sessions could be offered in nearby towns and onsite at the garden, whilst in Edinburgh delivery may be limited to the garden due to the scarcity of other suitable outdoor venues during the festival period).

Sessions will be aimed at children aged 3 – 8 years old, and you will be able to create and mould the content and approach in line with RBGE guidelines and mission statement. We would welcome further discussions with interested parties – please contact education@rbge.org.uk (FAO Suzanne Hermiston)

Alongside the physical events taking place, online materials will be available to help parents work with their children to explore the world around them. For example, short films or activity guides will be produced encouraging mini adventures in their local area which aim to open up their senses and stimulate both their imagination and love of nature. These resources will help parents and children to break down stereotypes around what can and can’t be touched, deal with issues of ‘getting dirty’ and increase parental confidence in playing outdoors. They should also encourage a child led approach to play and may include how to use natural materials in physical making sessions at the roadshow (i.e., twigs, leaves, stones etc) or could be story based (depending on the existing skillset and interests of the practitioner).

At the end of the summer holidays (at the beginning of the new school year) work will be undertaken with primary schools to deliver some elements of nature play with teachers. This may involve a virtual teacher CPD session and the inclusion of online materials to help maintain interest amongst young people.

Responsible to: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Education Team
Hours: 37.5 hours per week (including overnight stays)

Sessions will run during Scottish school summer holidays (from end of June to mid- August). We anticipate that contact time will be approximately 2 days per week with the remainder of the time being spent in planning, development, content creation and evaluation. Sessional Rangers would be expected to keep the RBGE education contact informed of progress.

Salary: Up to £12,000 (+expenses)
Base Location: Commutable to Edinburgh but with travel to all regional gardens. Overnight stays are required where all costs will be covered by the project (travel, accommodation, and subsistence).

Project Outcomes

The Ranger Project works towards achieving the following outcomes:

The proposed title for the project is “Down at the bottom of the garden…” with an accompanying strapline of Play. Plant. Protect. The main aims of the programme are:

  • To encourage children and parents to engage in nature play irrespective of the outdoor space available to them
  • To provide easily accessible resources for parents and teachers to help encourage more nature play amongst children
  • To offer ideas for free activities which children can complete at home
  • To embed a message of the importance of respecting nature when playing and subsequently encourage positive behaviour change towards the climate emergency and biodiversity loss amongst Scotland’s children
  • To increase the time spent playing
  • To improve children’s mental and physical health during the global pandemic recovery period
Project Delivery Implementation
  1. Create, plan and deliver free play sessions in pre-identified project areas.
  2. Assist with sourcing and offering appropriate play resources (mainly loose parts, low cost, natural and recycled play items) to respond to the children’s play within allocated budget.
  3. Work with schools and local community organisations to effectively communicate with children, young people, parents, carers and other community members on the development of the project.
Evaluation and forward planning
  1. Gather evidence and documentation on an ongoing basis to assess success of the project using project outcomes and indicators.
  2. Assist in identifying key learning from the project to support further development and to aid future funding applications.
  3. Assist in producing final reports for funders and partners.
  4. Identify and obtain resources to support the effective delivery of the project.
  5. Engage with regional gardens to coordinate delivery and connect with local communities
Ranger – Key Responsibilities
  • Create, plan and facilitate community-based outdoor play sessions for children and young people in all weathers. These may include different types of play, such as loose parts play, adventurous play, natural /outdoor arts & crafts, storytelling, games and messy play. Supporting materials which can be shared digitally afterwards are also required to be provided by the Ranger.
  • Ensure records and budget are kept up to date (for example, numbers attending, session evaluations, spend to date etc).
  • Be guided by an ethos which values and respects children and young people’s ideas and suggestions.
  • Be guided by the mission and values of RBGE.
  • Use a risk benefit assessment (RBA) and dynamic risk assessment approach when planning for and supporting children and young people’s play.
  • Ensure that all policies and procedures are adhered to (for example, child protection, data protection, health and safety).
  • Assess and monitor the community spaces used when operating play sessions and, if appropriate, remove and/or report any items of concern.
  • Model positive behaviour and support children and young people to do the same.
  • Deal with any challenging behaviour in a sensitive and fair manner and in accordance with policies and procedures.
  • Liaise with parents, carers, professionals and partnership agencies to develop positive working relationships.
  • Monitor and evaluate the project, using methods which are fun, engaging and suited to the children and young people taking part.
  • Disseminate key findings of projects through appropriate channels.
Additional Responsibilities and Opportunities
  • Attend RBGE update meetings (roughly every 2 weeks) and complete orientation visits to each of the regional gardens to ensure familiarisation with regional specific processes and procedures (including biosecurity).
  • Undertake training, either required (for example, first aid) or which might be relevant to the role.
  • Follow any other instructions and perform duties that have been reasonably requested.

Support will be provided from across RBGE (regionally and from within the education team) when required.

Those meeting the key criteria may be invited to an informal interview during the week of 14th June.



Health, the Outdoors and Safety

Professor David Ball has published a paper on the salutogenic model of health which seeks to find out ‘what makes people healthy’ as opposed to the more familiar ‘what makes people sick (or injures them).’

This article draws on long-term qualitative policy research and describes examples of the on-going tensions in the context of the public enjoyment of the outdoors.

Full article here