Marguerite Hunter Blair: Child play can benefit communities

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If you were asked about your favourite place to play when you were eight years old, for many of you this memory would start with being outdoors, in or near running water, crossing fields and climbing trees, possibly quite far from home. Almost certainly your memory would not feature being supervised by an adult.

We all accept that things are different today. Our children are not allowed the freedom and independence to play that we enjoyed despite studies showing that the long-term health benefits of playing include boosting physical activity levels which helps to tackle child obesity, and supporting children to become more resilient. Play initiatives can also benefit the wider community by encouraging neighbourliness and improved community spirit.

The UK Children’s Play Policy Forum is calling for all political parties to invest in children’s play because of the proven benefits it delivers to children, families and communities.

Four Asks for Play calls on the UK government to: recognise the need for play throughout the school day; support regular sessional road closures in residential streets; invest in a programme focusing on disadvantaged communities; and provide support for staffed play provision to test innovative community-based health and wellbeing initiatives. This would build on the actions being delivered through Scotland’s national play strategy.

The Children’s Play Policy Forum believes that investing in the Four Asks for Play will result in improvements to children’s health and wellbeing. This in turn will lead to a reduction in the pressures on the National Health Service and the public purse.

It is 25 years since the UK signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which includes the right to play.

However, at a time when European legislation has ruled out battery-reared hens in favour of free range, we are moving ever more towards rearing our children in captivity. We know that playing provides immediate and long-term benefits to children, young people and the wider community.

Every one of us has a responsibility to ensure our children have opportunities to play at home, in school and in their communities. We are calling on all political parties to value play every day and provide resources for more play initiatives across the UK.

Marguerite Hunter Blair is chief executive of Play Scotland