Government should issue guidance on children’s play during the coronavirus crisis

20 Mar

This open letter to the UK government – from play practitioners, researchers, advocates, and industry bodies – urges the Chief Medical Officer and Public Health England to consult with the field on producing clear advice that keeps children and communities safe while still allowing them the opportunities for playing outside that could now be more important than ever.

As researchers, children’s play charities, and advocates for children, we fully support the current policy of social distancing to combat the growing coronavirus pandemic. With yesterday’s announcement of school closures, this now includes millions of families facing an indefinite period of home-schooling, with limited or no childcare. There is understandable uncertainty and anxiety about how they will cope. One major issue is, how will children play?

Space and opportunity to play is essential for children’s mental and emotional wellbeing, social connectedness and resilience. Of course, children can continue to play inside; we encourage families who need ideas, to search the internet and other media for resources and suggestions from play practitioners on how best to support indoor play. There are many rich ideas to be found, requiring little or no expense.

Space

But all parents know that children also need space to play outside. Healthy regular exercise is as vital for them as it is for adults. Public Health England (2018) identifies that ‘ensuring all children are as active as possible throughout childhood is important for population health … this activity can include all forms of active play’.

In addition to the physical health benefits, it is important for children’s mental and emotional wellbeing that they can move around, let off steam and express their natural vitality through play. Outdoor play in open space – within the public health parameters – could now be an important part of community resilience, particularly for those without private gardens, or living in high density and high-rise housing.

We note the current government guidance that social distancing can still include ‘going for a walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others’, and we welcome the Chief Medical Officer’s recent remark, that it is important that children still exercise, enjoy themselves and play outside in the park.

Social distancing

There remains uncertainty, however, about how to enable this within the social-distancing rules – for example: with younger children; in ball games; and in the use of equipment. We appreciate the challenge of advising the public in the midst of a fast-changing crisis, but we do urge the Government and Public Health England to consider the question of clear guidance; and to consult with play practitioners and academics on this.

We are also happy to work with local authorities and other agencies through this crisis, on any plans to support communities in this important area of public life and healthy childhoods.

Signed by

Adrian Voce OBE, Playful Planet and the European Network for Child Friendly Cities

Tim Gill, independent researcher, writer, and consultant

Alice Ferguson and Ingrid Skeels, Playing Out CIC

Anita Grant, Play England

Dr Wendy Russell, University of Gloucestershire and independent researcher

Professor Alison Stenning, Newcastle University

Ben Tawil and Mike Barclay, Ludicology

Robin Sutcliffe, Children’s Play Policy Forum

Karen Benjamin, The Playwork Foundation

Dinah Bornat, ZCD Architects and Mayor of London Design Advocate

Caroline Boswell, ex-Head of the Mayor of London’s Children and Young People’s Unit

Marion Briggs, Alliance for Childhood

Professor Fraser Brown and Mike Wragg, Leeds Beckett University

Mick Conway, Playfile

Amica Dall, Assemble

Charlotte Derry, Playful Places

Anna Gaffney, A Place in Childhood

Helen Griffiths, Fields in Trust

Mark Hardy and Deborah Holt, Association of Play Industries

Eleanor Image, Play Association Tower Hamlets

Graham Jones and Paul Greatorex, Leisure and the Environment

Professor Peter Kraftl, University of Birmingham

Naomi Lott, University of Nottingham

Anna Mansfield, Publica

Chris Martin, University of Leicester

Dr Mel McCree, Bath Spa University

Jess Milne, Consultant Playworker

Eddie Nuttall, Felix Road Adventure Playground Association

Kay O’Brien, Hackney Play Association

Cath Prisk, Outdoor People and

London National Park City Schools

Julia Sexton, Sheffield Hallam University

Katherine Shaw, Kids

Meynell Walter, Ip-Dip magazine and IPA England

Sally Watson, Newcastle University

Holly Weir, University of Westminster

Tom Williams, Woodland Tribe

Penny Wilson, Play KX

Dr Philip Waters, I Love Nature CIC

Rob Wheway, Children’s Play Advisory Service

Ali Wood, Meriden Adventure Playground Association

Dr Jenny Wood, A Place in Childhood, and Heriot-Watt University

 

8 Responses to “Government should issue guidance on children’s play during the coronavirus crisis”

  1. Tim Gill 20 March 2020 at 4:08 pm #

    Reblogged this on Rethinking Childhood and commented:
    Reblogged for obvious reasons. Hats off to Adrian for leading on this, and to many others for feeding in at short notice. Please help in any way you can.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. donnebuck 20 March 2020 at 5:25 pm #

    Thanks, Adrian, a useful contribution that keeps play on the policy agenda. By all means add my name to those endorsing it if you think it would assist.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kim Craigie 21 March 2020 at 12:45 am #

    Please issue guidelines. There are confused parents everywhere not knowing how far to let their children roam and play. The people aware of the situation can only speak to so many. CLEAR GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES NEEDED NOW.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lucy power 21 March 2020 at 9:37 pm #

    This needs urgent attention.

    Like

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