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What is Play Sufficiency
Play sufficiency is about making sure children have enough time, space and permission to play. Play sufficiency involves researching the extent and quality of children’s opportunities for play. This research helps us understand the variety of issues that influence whether children get enough play. Issues that support play are assets to be protected and issues that constrain play are factors to be addressed.
Play sufficiency research enables the development of evidence-based, strategic and sustainable local action plans, aimed at creating more favourable conditions for play. This strategic, evidence-based approach ensures efficient and effective targeted use of resources and encourages partnership working. Ultimately, the purpose is more children playing, more of the time. This ensures levels of satisfaction are maintained and improved.
Why Children’s Play Matters
Sufficient opportunities for play are key to children’s enjoyment of the cities, towns and communities they live in and are an essential part of any child-friendly initiative. Through playing children actively influence their well-being, development and enjoyment of life. Improving parent’s confidence in allowing children out to play improves children’s ability to freely navigate their communities and access the time, space and playmates needed for quality play experiences.
When children can access quality play experiences, they report improved attachments to people and their neighbourhoods, as well as improved perceptions of well-being, mental health, resilience and community identity. Children and parents say that improving opportunities for play has great social value to local communities and makes them better places to live.
What are the Challenges
Play is essential for children but children’s time, space and permission for play has and continues to be eroded. This erosion makes it difficult for children to play as much and in the variety of ways and places that they would like. When children’s opportunities to play are significantly reduced it becomes very difficult for them to generate all the benefits that are to be gained from playing.
There are many reasons why children may find it more difficult to play, for example: increased fears about safety and litigation, other obligations on their time, an emphasis on adult structured activities, increases in the amount and speed of traffic, restrictions on access to and use of land, and the attitudes of other residents. To make it easier for children to find time and space for play among other aspects of their lives, and to help adults to feel confident in allowing them to do so, requires adults to think and act differently.
How Does Play Sufficiency Help
Children accessing sufficient opportunities for play relies on much more than designated play provision. Play sufficiency is a process that ensures adults pay greater attention to how their decisions and actions constrain or support children’s time, space and permission for play. It is an ongoing process of research and action to assess and secure play sufficiency. The assessment stage explores what is working for who, where and why at a neighbourhood and organisational and/or local authority level.
The detail of the assessment findings is then used to develop evidence-based, specific and targeted responses. These responses may include changes to policy, practice, service provision and the built environment. The issues that influence play appear across professional and disciplinary boundaries. It’s essential, therefore, to involve a broad range of people, agencies and representatives from policy areas that impact, directly or indirectly, on children’s opportunities for play to ensure the most effective response.