William Eichler 17 March 2020

Playing outside helps build ‘connected communities’, research says

Researchers have called on local authorities to ‘recognise and value’ the contribution of residents who organise playing out sessions for children.

A study by Newcastle University in collaboration with Playing Out - the national movement aimed at restoring children’s freedom to play out near their home – has found that resident-led play street sessions can reduce loneliness and lead to greater community cohesion.

They found that playing out sessions were a way for children of different ages and from different schools to meet and play with each other.

Adults also told researchers that playing out gave them the chance to make new connections with neighbours of all ages, regardless of whether they had children.

The research also highlighted that much of the work in organising neighbourhood playing out sessions falls to small groups of neighbours.

Professor Alison Stenning, chair in Social and Economic Geography, Newcastle University, said: ‘Playing out is not just about play and not just for children. It promotes an increase in neighbourliness, a sense of belonging, and safer, friendlier streets.

‘This research has shown that resident-led temporary play streets can play a role in helping to alleviate loneliness. This, along with many other social and community benefits, suggests that there’s a strong case for more support from Government and local authorities to ensure that playing out is something that everyone in any community can take part in.’

Alice Ferguson, co-director of Playing Out, commented: ‘We have seen for ourselves how the ‘playing out' model brings people together and leads to friendships between neighbours of all ages and backgrounds. It is fantastic to now have academic research clearly showing that this is a key outcome of resident-led play streets.

‘Stronger, more connected communities where people know and trust their neighbours are important in so many ways, particularly for children. Alongside a happy family life, children need that sense of belonging to a wider community where they have friends they can call on to play with and adults they can call on for help.’

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