Pathway To Play campaign urges next UK government to invest in public playgrounds

The Association of Play Industries (API) has issued an open letter to the next UK Government, calling for urgent and significant investment in public playgrounds as part of the Pathway ToPlay campaign.

This appeal highlights the critical role of outdoor play in combating childhood obesity, poor mental health and sleep problems.

The #PathwayToPlay manifesto emphasises the importance of public outdoor play spaces and outlines three key commitments for the government:

  1. Conduct a National Audit: Perform a comprehensive national audit of public playgrounds to assess their quantity, quality, and accessibility.
  2. Ensure Long-term Sustainability: Allocate dedicated government funding for the installation and maintenance of free-to-use community play spaces. Every child deserves access to safe, local, high quality outdoor play areas.
  3. Increase Physical Activity Levels at School: Integrate outdoor learning into the National Curriculum and provide funding for school outdoor play spaces and equipment to boost children's physical activity levels.

API Chair Dr Amanda Gummer stated: "Outdoor play is as fundamental to children's development as sleep, nutrition and education. The decline in freely accessible outdoor play areas has pushed children indoors, leading to sedentary lifestyles and missed developmental opportunities."

API's research reveals alarming trends: childhood obesity and mental health issues are at record levels, and children's outdoor playtime has significantly decreased.

Playground closures, driven by budget constraints, have exacerbated these problems, creating a postcode lottery of play where access to public play areas is uneven across the UK. This inequality is especially pronounced in urban areas and among families with disabled children, who face barriers to accessing inclusive playgrounds.

Recently, Fields in Trust’s Green Space Index research revealed that 2.3 million children in Britain under the age of nine (31%), live more than a ten-minute walk from the nearest playground.

The Pathway To Play campaign underscores the essential role of public playgrounds as community resources. Despite their increased appreciation during the pandemic, playgrounds have been undervalued by policymakers. Investing in high-quality, free and local playgrounds is vital to encouraging outdoor play and mitigating the negative effects of excessive screen time.

"We urge the next UK Government to prioritise outdoor play as a non-negotiable aspect of childhood development," Dr Gummer continued. "A modest investment in public playgrounds will yield significant long-term benefits, securing brighter, healthier futures for our children and communities."

The Association of Play Industries calls on the next government to act immediately and ensure that every child in the UK has access to safe, local and high-quality playgrounds, levelling up the life chances of millions of children.

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