Children have the right and need to play. Every child in London should be free to play safely, near to where they live. London Play works to raise awareness among decision makers, influencers, parents and teachers about balancing risk against the vast benefits of play.
But parents and carers are fearful of allowing their children to play out unsupervised:
Traffic: this is the biggie and with good reason. Children are prevented from playing in their street; but also from walking to the park to play because of fears about their ability to negotiate busy roads.
‘Stranger danger’: is also a major parental concern, despite abductions of children by strangers being thankfully relatively rare (you are about as likely to get struck by lightning). However fears around antisocial and criminal behaviour are real in many neighbourhoods.
Taken together, these have resulted in children’s right to roam being eroded radically over recent generations. Parents in England are some of the most reluctant in Europe to let their children play out. Children in London are less likely to visit a park or greenspace without an adult than anywhere else in the country – despite the fact that 44 per cent of Londoners live within a five minute walk of a local park. One in 15 children do not visit their local green space at all.
Since 2008 London Play has pioneered the return of play to the streets of London – supporting residents to transform their streets into temporary, traffic free playgrounds on a regular basis. We also work hard to change the perception of streets through initiatives such as Car Free Day and Play Quarters.