‘Play Ranger Week’ aims to let kids run wild in total safety

Five-year-old James Cairns enjoys the activities. Picture: contributed

Five-year-old James Cairns enjoys the activities. Picture: contributed

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EDINBURGH’S first-ever Play Festival gets under way next week with venues across the Capital offering youngsters the chance to get involved in outdoor activities.

Play rangers will be on hand to support the sessions, which are being run all week by three charities working with the city council and target kids in disadvantaged communities.

We all need to do more to encourage greater take-up of outdoor play”

JULIA ABEL

Organisers say weekly play ranger sessions in North Edinburgh are already helping get youngsters from five to 15 to play safely after school and have also increased parents’ confidence in letting children play in public spaces.

Play Ranger Week will see free drop-in sessions at locations including Brunstane Primary, North Edinburgh Arts Gardens, Dumbiedykes Park and the Jack Kane Sports Centre.

The youngsters pick outdoor activities, from den building to eating marshmallows round a campfire. They can choose games, construction tasks, messy play, scrap play and use props and toys provided by the rangers.

Megan Houchin, of Smart Play Network, which is leading the project, said: “The play ranger approach is quite new to Edinburgh. Playing outside makes a massive difference to kids’ development.

“We bring a well-stocked van full of toys and equipment to each session, from tyres to paint. As soon as they see the stuff it makes them want to be more active. Choosing what they want to do stimulates their imagination.”

Mother-of-three Sylvia Cairns said the sessions had made a big difference to her son James. “He is five and the youngest one at the sessions. He loves it and learns so much from mixing with other kids of different ages.

“Usually he would be sitting watching TV or play alone in the garden. I have seen a difference since he started going. He is much more confident with other kids and uses his imagination.”

The festival, funded by Inspiring Scotland, also involves Edinburgh Leisure, North Edinburgh Arts Group and Canongate Youth Project.

Julia Abel, from Inspiring Scotland, said: “Our play ranger programme and play projects working in partnership with the Scottish Government are actively combating barriers like parents safety concerns and helping tackle the lack of playful opportunities too many children in Scotland face too often.

“We all need to do more to encourage greater take-up of outdoor play so our children don’t suffer as a result of a lack of play opportunities.

“We hope the festival will help raise awareness and get more children playing safely out in their communities.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com