New research highlights importance of playgrounds

30 August 2019


New research with parents shows the devastating impact that the sharp decline in outdoor play facilities is having on their children’s physical and mental health.  The survey of 1111 parents with children aged between 2 and 12 has revealed:


  • 72% of parents of children with health issues such as obesity said that the lack of outdoor play facilities in their area has played a role in their children’s problems.
  • Over a quarter of parents surveyed with children experiencing mental health problems said that the lack of outdoor play facilities in their area has played a role in their children’s difficulties.
  • 26% of parents with children who have sleep problems say that a lack of outdoor play facilities in their area has played a role in their children’s sleep difficulties.



The *survey was carried out by Mumsnet – the UK’s biggest website for parents – and commissioned by the Association of Play Industries (API).  It asked parents about their children’s outdoor play and indoor screen time habits and revealed their growing concerns over children’s activity levels and the shift from outdoor play to indoor screen time.
It follows previous API research which uncovered an alarming decline in public playground provision due to local authority budget cuts.

Mark Hardy, API Chair, said: “Most of the parents surveyed say that playgrounds are vital in getting children outdoors and active again.  The overwhelming majority of UK children live in urban areas. For these children, and particularly those in the most disadvantaged areas, public playgrounds are their only chance for outdoor play.

“Free, outdoor play is absolutely crucial to normal development.  We are in danger of leaving entire communities without anywhere for children to play.  Couple this with the dominance of digital culture and the strong inducement it creates for children to stay indoors – inactive and alone for hours – children are facing a crisis with dire consequences for their mental and physical health.”

The Play Must Stay campaign is calling for urgent investment in playgrounds before they disappear for good.  “There is a national crisis going on all around us,” said Mark. “The savings made now in cutting play budgets will cost the taxpayer far more in the longer term.  The decline in community playgrounds is a significant factor in creating a generation of children experiencing obesity, mental health problems and sleep difficulties.”


*Survey of 1,111 UK Mumsnet users with a child aged between 2 and 12 between 21st March and 2nd April 2019. The data is not weighted.  
Media Contacts: 
Mary Lubrano, Head of Communications.  For further comment on the Play Must Stay campaign contact Mary on e: m: 07999 550452
Mark Hardy, Chair of the Association of Play Industries. For further comment on the Play Must Stay campaign contact Mark on e:  m: 07933 686222

About the API

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.


Playforce is one of the most longstanding members of the API.

About Mumsnet
Mumsnet is the UK’s largest network for parents, with around 10 million* unique visitors per month clocking up around 100 million-page views. It has a network of over 10,000 influencers and its Mumsnet Jobs site, focused on flexible working opportunities, has nearly 30k monthly users. It regularly campaigns on issues including support for families of children with special educational needs, improvements in postnatal and miscarriage care, and freedom of speech on the internet. *Source: Google Analytics

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