Help children to play freely

Patrick Meleady
Patrick Meleady
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Sheffield was once the envy of other cities for its commitment to ensuring children and young people were supported to play freely.

However, over the last few years there has been a decrease in play spaces and opportunities for its children and young people.

To bridge the gaps groups have come together, some supported by Sheffield Green Spaces Forum.

The physical and social environments in which children and young people develop have changed too.

It is increasingly rare for children and young people to have long, uninterrupted blocks of time to play indoors and outdoors, by themselves or with their friends. Our children and young people as urban city dwellers are now less likely to have access to outdoor play spaces in natural environments.

Technology, traffic, and urban land-use patterns have changed the natural play territory of childhood.

Those who are older will remember the challenges and freedoms that play brought to us and how through play we were helped to take risks and to problem solve – making our own play resources and using our imaginations to transform junk or natural resources into castles and old wheels into swings etc.

Parents/carers too are increasingly concerned about the security of their children and young people, and are making greater use of carefully constructed adult-directed outdoor playgrounds that limit challenge in the name of safety.

At the same time, growing numbers of children are spending substantial time indoors using technology or in settings that focus on structured educational and recreational activities, leaving little time for participation in open-ended, self-initiated free play.

All children need to play. Spontaneous play which is not adulterated is crucial for children’s cognitive, social and creative development and for their life-long health and physical and emotional wellbeing.

It enhances every aspect of children’s and young people’s growth and learning.

Sheffield’s investment in play has been eroding and any short-term savings gained now will undoubtedly result in long-term harms for our city’s children and young people.

Please help children play freely.