In my view: Let them play in the streets

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It is great news that the Department for Children, Schools and Families will be taking joint responsibility with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for policies on children's play. As children reclaim the streets for play on the 20th annual Playday on 1 August, it reminds us that play and recreation has a central role in children's quality of life.

Playday's 'Our streets too!' theme highlights the fact that the streets belong to everyone in the neighbourhood. Play-friendly streets offer benefits to the community by providing a social space everyone can enjoy.

Over the past 30 years the number of children playing in the areas around their homes has dramatically decreased. The increase of cars, the decline in public space and the media's demonisation of children and young people are all factors leading to a situation where many children are effectively being raised in captivity.

Local streets should offer a place where children of all ages can feel independent, but be in a safe, local environment. Street play conjures images of older children and teenagers 'hanging out'. But there are many benefits for younger children who can get enjoyment and learning from walking to the playground with their carers - splashing through puddles, meeting dogs, hearing sirens are all adventures.We need to start at an early age to teach children to be 'streetwise' and help them to feel confident in their neighbourhood. The only way to do this is for them to play out as much as possible.

Celebrate children's play this year by attending one of the hundreds of Playday events taking place, with many at street parties or outdoors.

For information about Playday and the 'Our streets too!' campaign visit www.playday.org.uk

- Issy Cole-Hamilton, policy and research manager, Play England.

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