An army of 20,000 volunteers will be needed for a new initiative to help children play safely outdoors, say campaigners. They will be asked to help build new playgrounds, staff existing ones, run play schemes and street parties. The government has given £2m to help local groups boost outdoor play in their communities. Campaign group Play England says children should be able to play outside after school or in the holidays.
The group’s director Catherine Prisk said: “Playing outside, chalking on the pavement. climbing trees and riding your bike are simple pleasures that many of today’s children are missing out on. “Play is essential for children’s health and happiness now, and for making friends, building key skills for the future and for feeling you are part of a community.”
‘Never climbed a tree’
The money, from the Big Society Fund, will be divided among 17 local and national organisations dedicated to improving facilities and opportunities for play. The organisations will match fund the government award. According to Clare Colvine of Play England, part of the National Children’s Bureau, volunteers will be asked to help according to their skills. “For example one person could be asked to help dig a paddling pool but someone with good web skills might be asked to construct an online map of outdoor play facilities in particular area,” she said.
A growing body of research has found that today’s children do not have the same chances to play outside as their parents. For example a survey published by Play England last year showed that one third of today’s children had never built a den or climbed a tree. One in ten said they had never ridden a bike. Figures from the same survey, conducted by OnePoll last June, revealed that seven out of 10 families felt that taking their children to an outside space to play was a real treat.
Minister for civil society Nick Hurd said: “this is all part of our drive to create a bigger stronger society where people are empowered to make a difference to their community.” The 17 organisations involved have formed the Free Time Consortium which will not only improve play in their own areas but produce resource and information packs for other groups hoping to follow suit.
The consortium includes groups in Tyneside, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Milton Keynes and Plymouth