The importance of play

Put simply, play is intrinsic to children’s quality of life, and essential to their development.

Play is also a vital ingredient of a happy childhood, and can bring a range of benefits to children’s physical and mental health, their emotional development and acquisition of life skills.

Children’s active play brings far-reaching rewards to society in general. There is an obvious contribution to the objectives of health professionals who want to increase the amount of physical activity children partake in, contributing to a halt of the year-on-year increase in obesity in children under 11 years old.

Providing engaging play opportunities in areas where there is little else for children and young people to do can help address concerns about anti-social behaviour.

Overcoming barriers

However, there are increasing barriers to children’s play, especially outdoor play.

Traffic, crime (or the fear of crime), decreasing open space and changing pressures on children and families can all restrict children’s freedom.

In a recent letter to their members, the Association of Chief Police Officers emphasised that ‘good play and recreational facilities contribute to reduced youth crime, help build safer communities and tackle the problem of social exclusion’.

The letter goes on to ask for community-based officers to actively feed into the plans of local authorities, play partnerships and third sector groups, and to take an active role in the design of play areas and the routes used to travel to them.

Play and active travel can help excluded youngsters feel part of a community, reduce carbon emissions, provide local employment opportunities, and increase residents' satisfaction with the places where they live.

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Further information

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