Street Play - communities brought together by kids playing in the road
Over 50 Local Authorities now support Street Play, enabling residents to close a street for several hours, several times per year so that kids can play in the street and through that neighbours can meet each other. As well as helping kids to play and get exercise, the parents involved say that it brings both them and their children into contact with people around them they’d otherwise never have known.
The benefits of Street Play are seen as:
Play is vital for children's physical and emotional development and for their social learning.
It allows for truly child-led free play, providing important benefits over structured, organised activities in designated spaces.
Providing ample space to play energetically.
Children learn valuable skills when they play out.
Close to home.
Increases community cohesion by bringing neighbours of all ages together by providing a sense of common space and shared ownership.
It can engender a sense of collective responsibility and thereby increase the safety of the neighbourhood.
New opportunities for socialising and friendships.
The closures are organised by groups of parents with help from local councils. The parents act as stewards at the ends of the road, to stop traffic and escort cars driven by any residents. The councils have provided some equipment, like cones and fluorescent vests, and simplified the paperwork the parent groups need to complete. For example, instead of making the parents apply each time they want to close a road, the councils have set things up so the permission is recurring. But the emphasis is on doing as little organising as possible, to make it as easy as possible for the volunteers.
The project has, however, struggled to reach the most disadvantaged areas. Most street closures have been organised by relatively middle-class groups. And those involved suspect that a lack of diversity among the organisers reduces the diversity among the attendees.
Reseacher, Tim Gill has written an evaluation report of the Play Streets scheme in Hackney. Here are some quotes:
“I know virtually everyone in the road now. It doesn’t feel such a scary place, and I am happier to let my children out to play or to call on their friends.”
“It’s great that children can meet other children who live in their street. They can form new friendship groups that reach across di!erent schools and communities. Plus when children play together in their street, they can easily try out new things like cycling or scooting, and learn from having a go with each other’s toys. My daughter got a real sense of achievement when she learnt how to ride a bike in our street, and loved it when she had a go on a friend’s snakeboard.”
“The scheme has had a huge impact on our road. A local Facebook page has been setup which has led to a lively network of over 80 people giving each other support and advice on things like finding roofers, giving away toys and details of local art activities. Some people without children have helped to steward, and we wanted to reach out to all ages on the road so we joined together to organise a street party.”
Could Christians be a catalyst for the streets they live in?
You can get some resources here and check if your Local Authority supports such a scheme here. If they don't, why not raise it with them.
Here's a 1 min video on the concept:
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