UK play sector unites to keep playgrounds open

As restrictions tighten around the country, the UK’s leading bodies concerned with children’s play have joined together in a concerted effort to ensure that community play areas remain open.

Play England’s recent Let the children play seminar explored the best ways to ensure playgrounds stay open through the coming months.

Anita Grant, chief executive of Play England, said: “Play England have been aware throughout the pandemic that children have been massively impacted by the restrictions resulting from Covid-19.  Our aim is to support government, local authorities and play providers to ensure that access to play opportunities remain a priority for us all.  Through play children explore their world, develop essential skills and build resilience. Play England’s webinars are being planned because it is vital that the whole community work together to mitigate the effects of recent events on children and young people and that decision-makers and managers get up-to-date information and practical ideas about how to keep playgrounds open.”

Mark Hardy, chair of the Association of Play Industries, was a guest speaker at Play England’s seminar and stressed how difficult it is to ‘overstate the vital role that playgrounds play in children’s physical and mental health’.

Hardy said: “With common-sense risk assessments there is no reason whatsoever why playgrounds should close again. Children, who have suffered so much this year, need public playgrounds more than ever. Outdoor play reduces stress and anxiety, increases a sense of control, protects against mental ill-health and boosts physical well-being.

“Any set of Covid restrictions should not include the threat of playground closures.  We know that transmission of the virus is far less outdoors and we know the profound need that children have for outdoor play. Children need somewhere that’s theirs to play throughout this and playgrounds are so often the hub of a community. Playgrounds are great levellers, providing the social interaction so necessary for mental health and normal development.

“We would urge all communities to do all they can to ensure their playgrounds stay open.  Whilst a welcome by-product of the crisis has been a renewed appreciation for our parks and playgrounds – and recognition of the importance of children’s free, outdoor play – Local Authorities’ funding is now tight. Couple this with the fact that closed playgrounds were often targets for vandals during full lockdown, we must all continue to fight and to push playgrounds high up the political agenda. The government and local authorities should be constantly reminded of the importance of playgrounds and warned of the considerable harm that will be done to children if they are ever closed again.”