City play champion to get kids active

Youngsters have fun in the Grassmarket on National Play Day. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Youngsters have fun in the Grassmarket on National Play Day. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A “PLAY champion” is to be appointed for the Capital in a bid to help encourage children to get involved in outdoor activities and fun approaches to learning.

City leaders are expected to name a senior councillor for the role within the next few weeks. The job will include building on Play Days for under-5s held in the last couple of years by putting together a programme for a more wide-ranging Festival of Play.

And experts have called for the appointment to help 
highlight the importance of playtime to everything from sporting achievement to general happiness in later life.

Paul Dickson, of Inspiring Scotland, which sponsored a big play event in Leith in the summer, said a play champion was a “great move”.

He said: “People tend to think play is just play, but nowadays there is a raft of kids who never go out and are just constantly on their Wii or Nintendo. By encouraging children to go outside and choose what they want to do, you are increasing their sociability, they get to know each other and it’s healthier because they’re running about instead of sitting on their backsides.

“A play champion would make sure play is on the agenda and help people understand its importance. Getting kids out and playing together can help them stay away from wrong avenues. And if they have fun running around and jumping, then further down the line they may decide they want to take up sports.”

Mr Dickson pointed to a Glasgow organisation which encourages children to build dens from scrap materials as the sort of initiative which could prove beneficial.

Children and families convener Cllr Paul Godzik said: “This is potentially a very exciting development. The position will be created to work with the voluntary sector in developing a play forum, hopefully then leading to a play 
festival to help give parents 
inspiration on how children can play.”