The Summer of Play campaign promotes children’s wellbeing and development

As pressure continues to build on the government over its post-Covid education recovery programme — to ensure that it is not just adequately funded but also sufficiently ambitious in its aims, scope and timescale — a campaign is underway to encourage as many people as possible, including community groups and businesses, to take the #SummerOfPlay pledge to “enable all children, in all our communities, to have space and time for play this summer by supporting fun, friends, and freedom”.

The Summer of Play campaign is coordinated by key children’s organisations such as Save the Children, Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales and Playboard Northern Ireland, and campaigning groups such as PlayFirstUK (a group of child development experts) and Playing Out. It is supported by charities and businesses from the NSPCC and Youth Sport Trust to the LEGO Foundation and the Arsenal Foundation. They will be offering resources to support children’s play and encouraging others to take the #SummerOfPlay pledge.

Play is vital to children’s physical and mental health and development, and it happens when children and young people follow their own ideas and interests, in their own way, and for their own reasons. Play provides opportunities for social interaction and physical activity, it can reduce children’s stress and promote wellbeing and is a dynamic facilitator of creativity. Importantly, social connection and play offer myriad learning opportunities and positively support children’s academic attainment and learning.

from the Summer of Play website

The Summer of Play campaign comes as a Save the Children poll reveals that:

  • 51% of children said they are playing outside and with friends less than before the pandemic
  • 34% said they play alone more than they used to
  • 23% said they are playing less sport and are less active than they used to be

Playing Out is an organisation helping to coordinate the Summer of Play campaign. Playing Out began as two friends on one street in Bristol in 2009 and is now “a national movement for change”. Its website offers advice on how parents and carers, schools and nurseries, community activists and organisations, and councils and housing associations can get involved. It recommends that schools and nurseries:

  • prioritise play and don’t cut break time
  • consider making use of nearby green space
  • open up school grounds for ‘stay and play’ after school
  • ensure holiday schemes are based around free outdoor play
  • ensure staff understand the importance of free play
  • organise a school play street (a variation of their ‘play street’ model — short temporary road closures outside a school gate at the start and end of the school day, with volunteer stewards looking after the closure points)

PlayFirstUK, a group of child development academics, is also involved in the Summer of Play campaign.

Amongst all the talk of educational catch-up it is vital that we don’t forget that children have also missed out on play with their friends, physical activity and fun. In February, PlayFirstUK wrote to government urging them to ensure children get time to play this summer. This campaign builds on that and is about community action; coming together with a wide range of diverse organisations to give children the summer of play they deserve, to help them catch up on so much of what they have missed this past year.

Helen Dodd, Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Reading

You can read more about the PlayFirstUK letter to the prime minister by clicking here.

Last week we wrote about growing calls to ensure that the post-Covid catch-up recovery programme does not become an exercise in cramming more subject-based learning into the school day but uses the current circumstances as an opportunity to reset priorities for how we best educate children.

We have also written extensively about the need for children to be able to safely enjoy and learn through play.

Summer of Play

Playing Out

Youth Sport Trust

The image at the head of this article is by Pexels from Pixabay.

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