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Play best way for children to get active

New Ark Adventure Playground

By Nicola Butler, Chair of Trustees 

Play is vital for children’s health and wellbeing. It is particularly important for disadvantaged and disabled children, who often face greater barriers to access appropriate and good quality play opportunities.

Play England is delighted to be part of #GetOutGetActive, an exciting new programme that supports disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy being active together. Funded by Spirit of 2012, the project is about getting people moving more through fun and inclusive activities.

Too many children are leading inactive lives. Many are growing up in over-crowded housing without access to quality play and sports opportunities outside school. An alarming number of children fail to meet guidance from the Chief Medical Officer.

According to Public Health England, in 2014/15 a third of 10- to 11-year olds and over a fifth of four to five-year olds were overweight or obese.

Evaluation of Play England’s Street Play project identified increases in children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity when they played out. Accelerometers and GPS were used to track children whilst playing. It identified increases in children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity.

The data collected and analysed showed that outdoor, active play was more likely to replace sedentary and screen-based activities, than physical activities. Increased community cohesion was also identified through an in depth study of parents views.

Play England, with national partners Playing Out, London Play and the University of Bristol, developed the highly successful Street Play project, funded by the Department of Health. The Street Play project supports parents to hold regular road closures for play, with a sustainable network of over 5,000 volunteers creating over 60,000 additional play opportunities.

The evaluation of Play England’s Street Play project found that the hours between 3:30pm and 6pm on weekdays are the ‘critical window’ for children’s physical activity and it is during this time when differences in weekday physical activity between low and high active children and non-obese and obese children are greatest. Currently only 13% of 10- and 11-year old children are outdoors and active during this time.

Play England has lots of resources to help parents and local residents reactivate a culture of children playing out in the streets near where they live and embed this in local policy.
Click here to find out more and download briefings.

At the Child in the City conference this month, I promoted the crucial role of Street Play in child-friendly cities at a workshop with Tim Gill, author of the acclaimed ‘No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society’.

Play England is also developing Adventure into Sport, a pilot project which will use play provision as a springboard into sport and active lifestyles for children and their parents.
To find out more about #GetOutGetActive click here.

To find out more about the latest Play England news and activities download our quarterly newsletter Playtoday.

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