National Playday to promote outside play spaces

An annual celebration of children's play - Playday - is focusing on playgrounds this year with the theme Playful Places.

Playday on 7 August is calling on people to ensure children’s play areas are safe and welcoming. The Playday campaign organised by Play England and its regional counterparts wants to encourage parents to let their children play outside and developers, planners and landscape architects to design public space with play in mind.

It is also calling on organisations to involve children and young people in planning such spaces.

Play England conducts an annual survey on attitudes to play with 2013 results due out next week.

Last year’s research revealed that more children, 60 per cent, preferred to stay indoors and watch television or play computer or console games than go outside.

Nearly half of parents questioned, 49 per cent, said their children did not play outside because of safety fears, while 31 per cent were scared of road accidents or play injuries.

To compound the lack of exercise during their free time only 10 per cent of children walk to school now compared to 90 per cent at the end of the 1970s.

Landscape architect Carolyn Place of Anthony Stiff Associates in Milton Park, Oxfordshire said it was crucial to design spaces which were attractive to children as well as adults.

"It’s not just about having a playground and putting stuff in it. It’s about designing a community space where older people will enjoy watching the kids play. If the parents aren’t having fun they are only going to hang around for half an hour."

One solution to multi-use space are Multi Use Games Areas (MUGAs), offered by several companies.

Place set up MUGA supplier Smooga with her husband to offer mobile interlocking units which can be turned into safe play spaces primarily for schools, a gap she saw in the market.

"Schools don’t often have enough outdoor space and this can divide it up," she said. "If you have ten-year-old boys playing football and six-year-old girls don’t have to be in the same space."

Play issues were at the front of delegates’ minds at a seminar earlier this year.

Speakers at Talking Point, The Playable City seminar at The Gallery in Farringdon, London, on 7 May, shared their experience of barriers to providing good outside play space.

Landscape Institute president elect Noel Farrer of Farrer Huxley Associates was one speaker who had ensured children were consulted on designs for play spaces they would use.

He also advocates leisure spaces which can be used for play but also enjoyed by adults.

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