There’s no denying that the news has - quite rightly - been focused on the needs of our children over the past few weeks. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to challenges presented by free school meals, homeschooling, reduction in time outdoors, overall fitness levels and general wellbeing. Whilst Boris Johnson may have pledged to tackle childhood obesity (as well as act on many of the other issues mentioned here) we have to ask whether keeping public playgrounds open, during this latest lockdown period, is really the answer to the problem.
There is no denying that the risks posed to children of not playing outdoors far outweigh those posed by the virus, if managed responsibly. In a recent article by the Association of Play Industries
(of which Playforce is a member) API Chair, Mark Handy, stated that:
During one of the most difficult periods in recent times, parents have relied upon public playgrounds to keep their children mentally and physically well and to provide some respite for themselves. As with so many aspects of our society, the lockdowns have forced us to see what really matters – the building blocks of our communities that we can’t live without – and our community playgrounds really do matter.
Along with parks and other shared public spaces, the public realise the central role that playgrounds have in all our lives. Without them, the 1 in 8 UK households’ children would quite simply have nowhere to play. We live on a small, densely populated island and even those children lucky enough to have small gardens would, without public playgrounds, miss out on the vital sense of community playgrounds provide, the sense of space and freedom and the chance for social interaction so crucial for their basic development. Playgrounds provide all this as no other public facility does.
Lockdowns have made us all acutely aware of the essential nature of play and, in turn, the essential role of public playgrounds. It is time, now, for the Government to reflect this renewed appreciation for playgrounds and invest in their future before they disappear for good.
This final sentence, however, raises an important challenge for the Government within the positive step of keeping playgrounds open. An article by The Mirror
recently highlighted that eight out of ten of the playgrounds celebrated as staying open were in need of repairing.
They have had broken or damaged equipment and surroundings for at least a month.
The Sunday People sent Freedom of Information requests about the state of playgrounds to 354 councils in England and Wales. 248 admitted to a total of 27,385 unresolved repairs.
At Playforce we’re proud of our work, over many years, to highlight the role play and active, outdoor learning can have in combatting obesity. During the last year of disruption - which shows little sign of reducing over 2021 - a loss of outdoor time has brought a further focus on children’s mental health, behaviour and wellbeing. And we believe all of these can be helped by more outdoor, active play and learning. Whilst there is no denying that keeping playgrounds open is a cause for celebration this is a hollow victory if children cannot play in them safely. If the Government is truly committed to combatting obesity then time, funding and attention needs to be given to making sure our nation’s children can play, safely, in their open, public spaces.
We have a range of Inspection Packages to give you peace of mind that you are adhering to the best and most up to date health and safety advice, and playground safety standards in maintaining your play space. You can read more here, please email email@example.com for a quote