- Posted on Aug 30, 2018
Kids are so over-scheduled that doctors are being told to prescribe play says new American report. Children have a right to play and it is absolutely fundamental to their wellbeing. That we now have a situation where play, the ‘default setting’ for children, is having to be prescribed, is in itself alarming and disappointing. We all have a role in ensuring children are active but it’s important we don’t organise activities too much. Children’s lives are already highly structured – they need time to just ‘be’ and, more often than not, if you allow children the chance to do this, they’ll play. It is through play that children learn about others, the world around them and about themselves. The least we can do is give them spaces to do just that.The right kind of playground can transform lives – drawing kids outdoors, tempting them away from solitary days spent in front of their screens and replacing them with days spent interacting, playing – being children. Sadly however, our Nowhere to Play research uncovered a decline so steep in playground provision across England that none of us can afford to ignore it. Between 2014/15 and 2015/16 local authorities across England closed 214 children’s playgrounds, and when asked about future plans they admitted their aim to close a further 234.Play is essential to children’s social, physical, mental and emotional development. Unstructured outdoor play, away from close adult supervision is vital if we are to raise a generation of fit and well-adjusted young people. To be a child is to play – the provision of play spaces is a necessity and not a luxury. In the midst of an obesity epidemic and mental health crisis amongst young people, we have a moral duty to push free, outdoor play to the top of the political agenda instead of replacing it with highly organised sports and hobbies.
Additionally this week the children’ commissioner for England Anne Longford says urgent action is needed to stop children leading a “battery hen existence” during the summer holidays that is damaging their mental health, contributing to violence and ensuring they return to school in worse health than when they left, the children’s commissioner for England has warned. Anne Longfield said radical measures were needed to restore the importance of play, such as overhauling play areas and parks, and encouraging GPs to recommend “play on prescription”.Anne’s sentiments are to be applauded and certainly a use of the sugar tax to stimulate children’s outdoor play would be most welcome, however creating more safe, attractive and accessible play areas would attract Children close to their homes. Staffed adventure play facilities are fantastic but some are simply too inaccessible and entail parents having to take their children in much the same way they would take them to school or after school clubs. We should be looking to ways to encourage children to simply play outside more by giving them the space and facility nearby to their homes. read more
Mark Hardy, API Chairman