Being able to play with friends in the area where they live is important for children and helps them to feel part of a wider community.
Children who are encouraged to play locally will develop social networks, increasing their sense of belonging and the feeling that they are valued by society.
Seeing children playing outside is a sign of a community which supports and encourages people of all ages to be active and is a good place to live. When children play with new friends, their parents often connect with each other too, thus bringing families in a community closer.
When children start school they naturally gain more independence; however, they should still be encouraged to play with children living locally (who may go to different schools or be in different year groups).
Taking part, being sociable and making a difference
Public Health Wales promotes the ‘Five Ways to Well-being’ (individual actions that promote well-being). Play Wales has used these ideas to show how playing can help a child’s well-being.
- Take notice: children engage with their environment through play in a variety of ways. They take notice of its characteristics and adapt to its qualities.
- Connect: playing generates strong attachments to people and places, developing children’s connections with each other and the adults around them.
- Be active: increasing evidence shows that playing is an effective way of being physically active. Not all children want to be involved in structured activity or sports but all children play.
- Keep learning: playing enables children to explore new concepts without becoming stressed and it allows for experimentation, adaption and new discovery after the formal education of the day has finished.
- Give: through play children learn how to share and give. They negotiate shared space, ideas and resources. Older children learn to share, nurture and give care to support and extend younger children’s play.
Communities that support children’s play are helping them to develop:
- an attachment to the place where they live and the people who live there
- their skills in managing challenging situations
- their navigation skills and safety awareness
- an awareness of things and issues which matter to the community
- an understanding of the different roles of people within a community
- supportive networks of friends and adults
- an understanding of the needs of others
- the confidence to get involved as they grow older.
What’s happening in Wales
The Welsh Government has put a duty on all local councils to provide sufficient opportunities for children’s play in their areas. This means they must find out what play and recreation children and adults want in their areas and address any barriers stopping children playing, e.g. providing a suitable play area where none exists.
Information about play areas should be readily available on their website.
Play Wales provides advice and guidance to those who have an interest in, or are responsible for, providing children’s play.