Mark Hardy, Chair of the Association of Play Industries, says putting children at the heart of the nation’s recovery from Covid-19 means putting play at the heart of recovery.
Today we are proud to be joining 150+ organisations calling on the Government to put children at the heart of the nation’s recovery. Lockdown has been a brutal experience for many, impacting their physical health and mental wellbeing, their needs ignored, the fallout seemingly viewed as inevitable collateral damage.
Levels of obesity in UK children, already amongst the highest in the world, have rocketed during lockdown. The full effects of house arrest on their mental health remains to be seen, but the months spent alone, indoors, sedentary and screen-dependent will no doubt have serious consequences.
Now is the time to put children at the heart of recovery.
Putting #ChildrenAtTheHeart means putting #PlayAtTheHeart
Play is children’s default setting. It’s what they do and how they grow and learn in every aspect of their development. Without play, their physical, mental and emotional health is compromised. In a world where children are under such pressure, it’s through play that they experience fun and joy – things that have been in very short supply in recent months.
The importance of play, particularly free, outdoor play has been forgotten. Once taken for granted, we now simply don’t provide either the space or the opportunity for children to play outside. Outdoor play is now more of an event rather than a daily occurrence and this shift in priorities has profound consequences.
Outdoor play builds physical literacy, dexterity, strength and agility. It fosters a lifelong love of movement and activity; “Active Kids Become Active Adults”. It’s during outdoor play that children interact with their peers, negotiate, make up the rules, take risks and build confidence. Far from a ‘nice-to-have’, outdoor play is essential to normal development.
Public playgrounds are an essential public service
The vast majority of children in the UK live in urban areas. Many of these children are in households with little or no access to outdoor space. Children in the most disadvantaged areas are the worst affected and suffer the most. For millions of children, free-to-access public playgrounds are their ONLY chance to play outdoors.
A plan to revitalise the health of children
We join today’s call on the Prime Minister to announce that children will join health and the economy as the three pillars of the government’s coronavirus response. Covid-19 has given us the chance to press pause and re-evaluate where we are. Before this crisis, childhood obesity and growing mental health problems were areas of concern and yet, public playgrounds – an essential national resource– were being closed at an alarming rate due to lack of Government investment.
Public playgrounds are an all-round win!
As the Prime Minister announces measures today to re-build the nation after lockdown, and with the Chancellor expected to announce an emergency budget soon, we ask the Government to include the following in their plans:
Free to all, local playgrounds are crucial if the Government is serious about levelling-up inequality in the UK. Lockdown has shone a light on the lived experiences of children in disadvantaged areas, simply unable to play outside.
National battle against obesity
Active kids are the active adults of the future. Playgrounds are a major way for ALL children to get and remain active. Accessible, high-quality community playgrounds are a must in the battle against obesity.
Children’s Mental Health
The link between positive mental health and exercise is well known. And yet, playground closures mean many children are being denied outdoor play and exercise.
A simple, straightforward, effective public health measure
Significant investment in public playgrounds will have an immediate and lasting positive impact on the lives of millions of children.
We call on the Government to show they are serious about children’s welfare and to invest in public outdoor play provision as part of their recovery plans.