At the beginning of Playday week, Calum Duncan, Chair of Play Scotland asks for more space for play
Even while restrictions are being relaxed, and children no longer have the need to distance, being playful remains crucial. Play is a vital and simple way for families and siblings to feel connected; it is a tonic in the face of anxiety, and it is a way of exploring ideas as an opportunity for intuitive learning.
However, we are challenged by good appropriate space, inside and out, for everyone to play and explore. As restrictions are lifting, traffic is significantly increasing again on our streets. However, public transport remains restricted, and soon more people will be gradually returning to places of work.
Local authorities are expanding the provision of space for pedestrians and cyclists to maintain distancing, and we would encourage these improvements to be implemented as extensively and boldly as possible. Space is needed for children and young people to PLAY, as well as all of us to get fresh air and exercise.
In built up areas, parks and greenspace are already under pressure, and we can extend this space within our towns and cities through appropriate road closures for play, walking and exercise.
This could be roads which are next to parks and schools, even rewilding some of these streets, or considering new connections to woodlands and greenspace which are currently not available or less known. A busy road junction adjacent to schools could be transformed into an expanded playground space, whilst calming car use too. A stretch of residential street could be closed where residents have limited or no gardens.
Closed sections of roads can become space to play on bikes, skateboard, chalk drawing, clowning, games and ball games between siblings, play musical instruments, or to simply relax and escape the indoors with space to breathe.
In the UK overall, 15% of dwellings have no access to private outdoor space. Only 25% of flats have outdoor space and dwellings in the most deprived areas are least likely to have private outdoor space.
It is not just for local authorities to take actions on these issues, we can all help. For every single journey we need to make, the less we drive, the slower we drive, the more we cycle and the more we walk, the more space we are making for all ages to enjoy and play. We have an opportunity to change our mindsets which will improve play space, mental–health and wellbeing, as well as the air quality for all of us. Let’s make space to play and breathe.