Join the pledge! Summer of Play

Time for a play catchup

Boris, please prioritise play this lockdown

Triple the adventure: award winners

What does the new ‘rule of six’ mean for play streets?

Abby Aliens triumph, together a-kart

Havens of play for London’s children

Camp Build goes on tour!

Support for return to play on the street

Time for a return to play on the street

The London Play is one of many organisations behind the #SummerOfPlay campaign, to give children the space, time, and freedom to play this summer as Covid-19 restrictions are eased. Can your organisation join the pledge?

For more than a year, children across the UK have been forced to spend time indoors, inactive and isolated from friends due to Covid-19 restrictions. It is not surprising that we have seen unprecedented increases in children’s mental health problems and loneliness, alongside reduced physical activity.

In response, child psychologists, paediatricians and educators have independently and urgently called for play to be central to children’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and many others agree. Together we now are calling for everyone to help make this summer a #SummerOfPlay for children across the UK.

“After everything children have been through over the last year, we are calling on organisations to sign the pledge to support children’s play this summer.”

To join the #SummerOfPlay campaign, please take the pledge to enable all children, in all our communities, to have space and time for play this summer by supporting fun, friends, and freedom.

Sign the pledge here

Play news
The Scottish government has pledged £20m in funding to ensure that children have a Summer of Play to help address the impacts associated with extended periods of isolation and reduced participation in normal activities.
London Play in the news
London Play has joined academics and other play campaigners in calling on the government to support 'a summer of play' to help children recover from the stress of lockdown and a year of Covid upheaval.


Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.

As children return to school today after an enforced absence of more than two months, the sacrifices that they have made during the coronavirus pandemic are high on the public radar.

London Play

And as experts debate the best approach to help children recover, their emotional and mental wellbeing – and not just the gaps in their schooling – is rightly in their sights.

Writing in the Observer this weekend, the recently-appointed education recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins acknowledged that what children have lost extends way beyond educational attainment:

“Over the last year children have also lost out on countless other opportunities to learn and grow – through engagement in art, music, sport and play.”

He suggested that a comprehensive plan for recovery should span at least the next three years and that “nothing is off the table” in formulating this. He was clear too, that “the burden of recovery cannot be borne by schools alone.”

This is clearly an opportunity for the play sector to step up and offer to share this burden as the experts in promoting children’s wellbeing through play. If more evidence was needed, research published this week by Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity concludes that “one of the best ways to support children’s wellbeing is giving them the freedom to play. This is not only relevant in a hospital setting such as GOSH, but for all children as they try to cope with whatever challenges they face, including a global pandemic.”

Parents have watched, aghast, the impact of play deprivation on their children during repeated lockdowns.  The GOSH research found that one year on, “parents say the loss of their kid’s freedom to play with friends and wider family is taking its toll, with two thirds (66 per cent) voicing concern about the long term impact this will have on their child’s wellbeing.”

Meanwhile the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) surveyed almost 6,000 parents of school-aged children in England during the last week of February. Their findings show that a huge majority of parents (83 per cent) favour ‘catch up’ policies that would improve their children’s wellbeing. And while support for academic catch up policies (and particularly tutoring) is also high, support for policies that would see children spending more time in the classroom – such as longer, school days, summer school, extended school terms, or repeating school years – is much lower.

The government has already announced a £10m injection for additional after school sports programmes. This is to be welcomed but the interventions need to go much, much further.  Sustained support for play – to fund quality spaces and trained staff – will be a crucial element for a successful recovery.

Play news
The team behind Hackney Playbus has raised more than £30,000 to build a new travelling play centre to provide free support to the borough’s children and families.
Remembering London Play in your will could allow a future generation to benefit from the space and freedom you enjoyed in your youth.


Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.

A joint letter to PM Boris Johnson

Please prioritise children’s wellbeing during this third lockdown in England

Children’s mental and physical health has suffered enormously already and the potential impact of a further extended period without school or normal social interaction is unthinkable.

For children, playing outside (e.g. riding a bike, scooting, kicking a ball around) is an important way to be active, let off steam and interact with the world around them. It is essential for their mental and emotional wellbeing – and for their physical health. This is especially crucial now that children do not have access to either school playtime or after-school sports.

The Welsh government has recognised the significant benefits of outdoor play for children in their Covid guidance, clearly stating that children are allowed to play outside near home. In Scotland, the restrictions around meeting outdoors do not apply to children under 12.

In England however, whilst we welcome the fact that playgrounds remain open, there is currently no clarity for parents on whether informal outdoor play in public space is permitted under lockdown. For children, play is an important form of exercise but this needs to be made explicit by the government so parents can feel confident about letting their children play out without being fined or criminalised.

Along with the Children’s Commissioner for England, we therefore call on the UK government to provide clear, unambiguous guidance that outdoor play is allowed during lockdown, for children’s health and wellbeing. We further support the Children’s Commissioner’s call for children under 12 to be considered differently in the rules about meeting outdoors.


Alice Ferguson and Ingrid Skeels, Playing Out
Paul Hocker, London Play
Anita Grant, Play England
Dr Wendy Russell, University of Gloucestershire
Adrian Voce OBE, Playful Planet
Professor Alison Stenning, Newcastle University
Dr Helen Dodd, Playfirst UK / University of Reading
Dr Jenny Wood, A Place in Childhood
Ben Tawil and Mike Barclay, Ludicology
Tim Gill, Independent researcher and writer on childhood
Meynell Walter, International Play Association England
Michael Follett, Outdoor Play and Learning
Carley Sefton, Learning through Landscapes
Helen Griffiths, Fields in Trust
Mark E Hardy, Association of Play Industries
David Yearley, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
Rob Wheway, Children’s Play Advisory Service
Professor David Ball, Middlesex University
Stevie Edge-McKee, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Dr Sunil Bhopal, Newcastle University

Further signatories to be added

London Play Press Releases
The summer holidays are coming. The government must prioritise children’s needs and issue guidance for summer play providers now. 
Children and young people
In this briefing note, data collected in the last week of February 2021 is analysed to understand parents’ views about two important aspects of the return to school.


Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.

It’s pizza all round for three London adventure playgrounds that kept the spirit of adventure play alive during the ongoing pandemic.

[London Play press release]

Three London adventure playgrounds that went to extraordinary lengths to keep children playing – and in some cases, fed too – during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic were yesterday announced as joint winners of the coveted London Adventure Playground of the Year Award. Excited children and staff at Triangle and Max Roach Adventure Playgrounds in Lambeth and Hackney Marsh Adventure Playground heard the news via a premiere on London Play’s YouTube channel.

Usually celebrated in noisy style with hundreds of children at the Prince Charles Cinema excited to see their own films about the places they play on the big screen, this year’s online event was very different. But the message – that play, and adventure playgrounds in particular, are vital for children’s wellbeing and happiness – endures, and has, if anything, been amplified by circumstances which have seen children’s right and opportunities to play curtailed like never before.

There is no doubt that it has been a challenge for adventure playgrounds, whose ethos is open, tactile and very much ‘hands on’, to adapt their services to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Located in neighbourhoods where families are more likely to be living in flats with no open space and in potentially challenging circumstances – being forced to close their gates on these children was difficult.  But adapt they did, and the three winning playgrounds stood out for their innovative approaches, demonstrated in the films they submitted as their award entries and in their stories from a summer like no other.

Adventure play
09 April 2020: This briefing has been prepared by London Play and A5cend to help London adventure playgrounds as they rise to the challenge during the COVID 19 pandemic.
London Play’s Neighbourhood Play Havens project aims to ensure that adventurous play is within reach of those children and families who may otherwise be excluded – due to clinical vulnerabilities or capacity limits made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic.


Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.

From Monday 14 September, it will be illegal in England, apart from at school or work or under other few exceptions, for someone to meet more than five other people at a time.

The government is due to publish more detail on what those exceptions are over the coming days, and London Play will examine this closely before updating our guidance on what the new laws mean for play streets.

However, as far as we are aware, there is no plan at present to close public playgrounds. Given that in legal terms, play streets are simply temporary playgrounds, London Play’s view is that under the new rules play streets should still be able to proceed, with a few minor adjustments.  Children need to play – now more than ever – and a play street is one of the safer options for them to exercise their right to do so.

As always, it is ultimately up to residents and organisers to decide whether they feel comfortable to proceed with their play street plans; and also bear in mind that the situation is liable to change at short notice. For those that decide to go ahead, we would advise as follows:

• As per our previous guidance, the emphasis should be on creating traffic free streets for play; and not on community gathering.  The sharing of food and drink is discouraged.

• Organisers should ensure that all those participating are aware of the ‘rule of six’ and the potential for fines to be handed to those who do not comply;

• Organisers should also make clear that, as usual, adults on a play street are responsible for themselves and their children.  Therefore they are also responsible for ensuring that they and their children do not gather in groups of more than six while the play street is in session.

To help organisers make clear where the responsibility for complying with government legislation lies, London Play has a produced an adaptable A4 poster which can be laminated and affixed to lamp posts during the play street session or posted through residents’ letterboxes in advance. Download it here.

Play streets taking place over the weekend 12/13 September can proceed under the existing guidelines. We will update our play street guidance once the detail of the new legislation has been published.

The Cabinet Office statement on the new rule of six is here.

London Play’s guidance for post lockdown play streets is here.

Play news
Parents are worried that the loss of freedom to play during the pandemic could have a long term impact on their children.
Current work
Would you like your street to come alive with play? The good news is that in many parts of London, starting a play street is fairly easy.


Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.

Here’s a riddle for you in the time of Covid: this week 45 children from across London made go karts from scratch and traced them against one another. All Covid-safe! But how?

London Play press release

Inviting groups of children from across London to converge in a field, rub shoulders designing and building go karts from scratch, and then race them side by side was a BIG no-no this year. But London Play’s annual Go Kart and Girl Kart events are so hotly anticipated, by so many children, that the charity had to find a way to make them happen.

And so it was that Together A-Kart was born! Working over three consecutive days, with three ‘bubbles’ of children at three adventure playgrounds; six karts were designed, built, decorated and individually put through their paces. No petrol required – but plenty of hand sanitiser was deployed in the name of clean, safe fun. The London Play team timed and recorded all six teams in action; and then expertly spliced it together to create an exciting film, premiered on the charity’s YouTube channel on Friday at 12 noon.

Until then, none of the teams will know how they performed – but winning team the Abbey Aliens will no doubt be marking the end of the holidays with plenty of excitement! They can look forward to claiming their prize: a day out at Kent’s Buckmore Park Kart Circuit where Formula One stars Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button started out, generously offered by the Henry Surtees Foundation.

Many of the children taking part started out not knowing one end of a screwdriver from the other, but with a bit of guidance from London Play’s chief engineer Peter Wright, and some hands-on practice making their ideas into reality, all six teams were elated to have created functioning and even beautiful karts by the end of each day.

Angel from the winning team said:

“I’ve enjoyed painting aliens and making them look really nice. I helped cut the wood. It felt good… it was hard. But I got there in the end!”

Second placed team was ‘Boom Crushers’, hailing from Hackney’s Pearson Street Adventure Playground; and only just pipping their sister team by half a second (!) for third was Waterloo’s ‘Wolf Pack’.

Wolf Pack team member Anton, 10 said: “The best thing about our kart was we took our time and did the best things, and all worked as a team together.”

London Play’s Catherine Togut said: “We are so pleased to have found a way to make our go kart events happen this year. Together Akart has actually worked surprisingly well and the children have been fantastic. We are also really grateful for the support of the Henry Surtees Foundation, which had faith in London Play to deliver in these very unique circumstances.”

London Play also thanks Manufacturing Technology Association in remaining committed to supporting this event in its adapted form.

Adventure play
OK, so WE KNOW that adventure playgrounds are worth their weight in gold. Our Play Works project (2015-20) supported play workers to make sure they had the evidence to convince potential funders of the same.
A single donation will help us with our work today; a regular donation will help us plan for the future. There are a number of ways that you can donate:

London Play has won nearly £100k in funding to support adventure playgrounds and ensure the capital’s most vulnerable children can enjoy a summer of play.

London Play press release

With adventure playgrounds preparing to reopen in very different guises this summer, funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, will enable London Play to ensure that adventurous play is within reach of those children and families who could otherwise be excluded from their offer.

The Neighbourhood Play Havens project will give families a private hour of play at least once a week, in safe local spaces – including those that  have a member who is clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.

Many playgrounds are planning to open for pre-booked consistent groups or bubbles of up to 15 children. This will limit the overall number of children who are able to attend during the summer period and will also be likely to exclude those children who are living with vulnerable family members – or are themselves extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.

We will work with five London adventure playgrounds to enable children and their families who are most in need to experience a free weekly hour-long play session in their local safe space to play. Play workers will also benefit from specialised training to help adapt their practice and enable them to support quality play experiences in the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Play Haven is a 'godsend'
It's good to be back
What a difference a bubble makes
Adventure play
This updated briefing draws on the work of an expert group of play theorists and practitioners, to identify the unique characteristics of the adventure playground model of play provision.
A single donation will help us with our work today; a regular donation will help us plan for the future. There are a number of ways that you can donate:


Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.

With residential camps on hold during the pandemic, Camp Build is going on tour, bringing the excitement to children safely bubbled up on London’s adventure playgrounds.

Camps in Epping Forest are out this year, for obvious reasons. And lo, ‘Camp Build on Tour’ was born. First stops, Haringey and Southwark…

If you can’t come to Camp Build, Camp Build will come to you

Led by ‘Build technical wizards Jon and Peter, first stop on the Camp Build tour was Haringey’s Somerford Grove Adventure Playground, where children worked with the team to build a ‘house on stilts’. The following day (punishing schedule innit!) saw the tour van pull up at Southwark’s  Bethwin Road to build an ‘outdoor café’ shelter. Children there are yet to agree on the name, but ‘The Golden Goose Café’ was a strong contender when the London Play team left them delightedly exclaiming over what they’d achieved in one short day.

Silver linings

Camp Build in a normal year would have seen groups of children from adventure playgrounds taken out to Epping Forest to camp and build in ‘the wild’. A lot of fun, with the aim of giving young people confidence and practical skills that they can use when they return to their playgrounds, to help with the upkeep and development of their sites. Although this year they missed out on the camping aspect, working in their playgrounds rather than in the forest meant the project could respond directly to the plans/ needs of the sites. In some cases these plans were professional! Riley, a Somerford Grove regular, has plans to become an engineer and had knocked up a serious architectural model to give Pete and Jon a few ideas.

With social distancing restrictions meaning the vast majority of playgrounds are operating without indoor space this winter, the sheltered café space at Bethwin will hopefully make a big difference. Plans are already afoot amongst some of the kids to add a slide to the roof, we can’t wait to see it!

Adventure play
Camp Build is a three-year project funded by the Mayor of London’s Young London Inspired Fund. 2021 will see the grand finale over 10 days in August.
Our funders
The Mayor of London’s Young London Inspired Fund is supporting our exciting Camp Build project, giving 11-15 year olds the chance to camp out and ‘build in the wild’. For the three years 2019-2021 the camps will give groups of young people from adventure playgrounds skills that they can use when they return to their
Play news
Four out of five parents support education catch up policies to support their children's wellbeing according to the IFS.


Click here to go to our play map and find adventure playgrounds, play streets and all our other favourite places to play in London.

Most play street organisers are ready to consider reopening their streets for play – if councils give the green light, according to a survey by London Play.


Play streets in London have, with a few exceptions, been suspended over the lockdown period. But with public playgrounds coming back into use, children returning to school and other aspects of life returning to some version of normal, London Play is urging councils to support those residents that would like to reopen their streets for play.

There is no shortage of will; some 69 per cent of survey respondents said that they are keen to start or restart play streets as soon as possible, and a significant number had already held some kind of socially distanced meetups with neighbours. When asked what would give them the confidence to resume or start play streets, two thirds agreed that an edict from their local council or the government was key. Agreement from neighbours was unsurprisingly also important and around 60 per cent of respondents said that ideas on how to run socially-distanced play streets would aid their decision.

“If anything, play streets are less risky than public playgrounds when it comes to potential transmission of coronavirus.”

Some councils are already supportive

A few councils are already in favour; Camden and Croydon councils have confirmed to London Play that they are happy to support residents who want to restart play streets, provided they adhere to government guidelines. These two boroughs have also led the way with new resident-led initiatives to aid safe active travel and social distancing on local streets during the Covid-19 crisis. Camden invited residents to nominate streets to become no through roads and has subsequently issued Experimental Traffic Orders for seven schemes to be piloted over the next 18 months. Along with 10 new low traffic streets Croydon has pioneered Exercise Zones, where residents can request daily volunteer-facilitated closures of their streets to allow them to benefit from traffic free environments.

Katie Sansom, an organiser for a play street in Croydon, said she was excited at the prospect of being able to reopen her street for play. “After such a long time without social play with his peers my son is chomping at the bit to get out and about with friends,” she said. “With help from London Play, and anticipated support from Croydon Council over the coming weeks, we are looking forward to consulting again with our neighbours with the intention of creating a fun, outdoor and safe play street environment for all of our avenue’s residents.  The current circumstances have brought us all closer together so it will be great to finally meet some of our new ‘virtual’ friends too.  Go play streets!”


Help for organisers to plan with confidence

London Play has issued guidance to help organisers and councils plan post lockdown play streets with confidence.
“It is clear that play streets will not look like they used to for some time,” said London Play deputy director Fiona Sutherland. “But if anything, play streets are less risky than public playgrounds when it comes to potential transmission of coronavirus. They offer a simple way of opening up additional public space for play, literally on people’s doorsteps. We are not advocating public gatherings and organisers should continue to heed government guidance on social distancing.”

A significant minority of survey respondents (24 per cent) said that although they would like to restart their play streets, they felt it was currently too risky to do so. Chief among the concerns were the difficulties of imposing social distancing between children, especially the younger ones.

London Play’s view, supported by an ever-increasing body of evidence, is that the risk of allowing children to play together outdoors is very low, and significantly outweighed by the benefits. Based on such evidence, children in Scotland under the age of 12 are now permitted to play together outside without social distancing and London Play is hopeful that England may soon follow suit.

Our friends at Playing Out have made a very eloquent and comprehensive argument in favour of restarting play streets as we emerge from lockdown. Read it here.

London Play Press Releases
From Monday 14 September, it will be illegal in England, unless at school or work, for someone to meet more than five other people at a time. What does this mean for play streets?


Visit our dedicated site for inspiration, information and all the resources you need to start your own play street or just find out more.

London Play is calling on local authorities to restart play streets from July 4th.


Play streets involve residents on a street agreeing to temporarily but regularly close their road to through traffic, so that children can play outside while adult neighbours get to know one another in the safe and clean space.

Hundreds of play streets across the country have been suspended during the coronavirus lockdown. But as the government gives the green light for playgrounds to reopen, London Play believe that now is the appropriate time to open up additional public space for children and communities in the form of play streets.

Play streets will provide thousands of children who have suffered months of isolation with more space and opportunity to play outside. Adult neighbours, including those who are vulnerable, will also have the chance to connect with one another in the street space, or from the safety of their front gardens and doorsteps.

London Play is today writing an open letter to local authorities to outline the case for play streets and give leaders the additional confidence to reactivate them.

Read our open letter here

Download our Risk Benefit Guidance for Post Lockdown Play Streets here.

Current work
2021: The Play Street Carousel is a unique project that harnesses the power of play to strengthen bonds between neighbours, even as the pandemic keeps us all apart.
Play news
A national ‘observatory’ of children’s play experiences during Covid-19 is being led by academics at UCL and the University of Sheffield.


Visit our dedicated site for inspiration, information and all the resources you need to start your own play street or just find out more.