The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises ‘the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.’
Children tell me all the time about the importance of play and especially access to safe outdoor spaces.
When I surveyed over half a million children in 2021 as part of The Big Ask this was an extremely common theme.
One girl said they wanted “places for kids to play and have fun things to do’”– Girl, 6 (The Big Ask) and many others gave very similar responses.
The importance of places to play, particularly places that feel safe, has also been emerging as a theme far from the focus groups I have been running around the country to inform my ‘Big Ambition’ survey which I launched in September 2023.
The results of this survey, which are due out at the end of March, will focus on what children want politicians to do to make their lives better ahead of the next election.
A typical response to the survey, in this case from a 9-year-old boy, about one thing the government should do to improve the lives of children is “Make the area we live more fun and have stuff for children to do and make the parks better’” – Boy, 9 (The Big Ambition)
Children use space in different ways to adults and have different priorities and different needs. They will have common shortcuts from school to town centres; they will have found perfect places to play ball games, where they are actively discouraged from playing; they will know places that feel scary or unsafe to them that police aren’t aware of.
And yet children have told me too often that they don’t feel they are consulted when decisions are made about where new cameras or lighting are installed, or when new parks or recreation spaces are developed.
I have set out in more detail in my recent response to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee Inquiry on Children, Young People and the Built Environment about my priorities in this space, and the additional intelligence that the Big Ambition survey results will provide.
We will be sharing what children have told us they want decision makers to do to improve their access to safe spaces and prioritise the importance of play at the end of March.
They have all have a right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. We must listen to what they want and make sure politicians are listening.