In this extraordinary pandemic, alongside the tragedy of lost lives and livelihoods, there has also been a renewed appreciation of those public services we took for granted – a reappraisal of what ‘essential’ really means.

When public playgrounds were closed in the first lockdown, it brought their ‘essential’ status sharply into focus.  Because the majority of UK children live in urban areas and 1 in 8 households have no outdoor space, millions were left with nowhere to play, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds were the most affected.  And currently, despite Government guidelines to keep playgrounds open in lockdown, *primarily for those families without gardens, some authorities are failing to do so plunging many families into despair.

Unless we tackle playground closures, many children will stay in perpetual ‘lockdown.’

Children were being driven indoors long before official lockdown. The combined effects of the widespread closure of play spaces in recent years and the toxic lure of screens and technology, meant that increasingly, children were spending their time indoors, sedentary and alone.  This year of lockdown after lockdown has profoundly compounded this effect.

Chair of the Association of Play Industries, Mark Hardy says:

“This unique pause presents us with a rare opportunity to transform our children’s lives through the power of outdoor play.  By re-imagining our public spaces, we can reverse the alarming decline in the number of public play spaces which has quietly been taking place, local authority by local authority.   We must put children at the heart of recovery. Playground closures are nothing short of catastrophic for children’s mental health, fitness, development and overall wellbeing.  If we continue to fail to view communities from the perspective of children there will be more and more closed, neglected and often dangerous environments where there once stood a precious play space created exclusively with children in mind.”

Play is Exercise

“We welcome Sport England’s new 10-year vision – Uniting the Movement – and in particular their 5 Big Issues,” says Mark.  “It’s crucial now that we come together as a nation to ensure that everyone has equal access to the benefits of exercise and for children this means outdoor play. We particularly welcome the strategy’s focus on tackling and preventing inequality: community playgrounds are great levellers as open-to-all public spaces in which ALL children can play freely and safely.”


5 Big Issues

  • Recover and reinvent – Place children at the heart of recovery by building a sustainable network of public play spaces.
  • Connecting Communities – Playgrounds are often the heart of the community, where parents, grandparents, neighbours and children from all walks of life go to meet.
  • Positive experiences for children and young people – Safe, challenging and stimulating play spaces give children the freedom to play, socialise and have fun in a space dedicated to them.
  • Connecting with health and wellbeing – Active children become active adults, giving them the lifelong joys and benefits of an active life.
  • Active environments – Local and accessible ‘doorstep’ playgrounds make it easier for all children to get active.


*Recent addition to the ‘COVID-19: Guidance for managing playgrounds and outdoor gyms’ guidance which states: Playgrounds are primarily open for use by children who do not have access to private outdoor space, like their own garden. Although parents, guardians or carers can take children to a playground for exercise, they must not socialise with other people while there.

API Research & Campaigns


Notes to Editors

The Association of Play Industries (API)  is the lead trade body within the play sector and campaigns at the highest levels for policy recognition for play. Its members are leading manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of both outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing. Founded in 1984, the API represents 85% of the play industry.

The API operates under the umbrella of the Federation of Sports and Play Associations (FSPA), the national trade body responsible for representing Sports and Play Associations in the UK’s sport and play industries.

Media Contact

Mary Lubrano, Head of Communications.  For further comment contact Mary on e: [email protected]  m: 07999 550452