It's not just about "more": A research project exploring satisfaction with opportunities to play, for children in two Welsh neighbouring communities
Children’s outdoor play is influenced by factors beyond time and space opportunities
A Play Sufficiency Assessment conducted in two neighboring Welsh communities found that the children in the more socially and economically disadvantaged community (Neighborhood B) rated their opportunities to play higher than children in the other community (Neighborhood A). The aim of this research was to identify why.
Both children and adults participated in group interviews focusing on children’s play and perceptions of their play. Six children were from Neighborhood A; seven from Neighborhood B. All were between the age of 9 and 11. The adult groups included parents and a range of professionals – including playworkers -- from the two communities. Topics addressed during the adult interviews included perceptions of children, children’s play and play provisions within their respective communities. Adult topics also included barriers to play faced by children and suggestions to improve levels of satisfaction. Topics addressed during the children interviews included the places and environments in which they play, supports or restrictions to their play, their perceptions of adult attitudes towards their play, and play during the school day. The children were also asked to share suggestions for improving levels of satisfaction.
When asked how happy they were with their play opportunities, 66% of the children in Neighborhood B rated their satisfaction at 7 and above on a scale of 1–10 (with 1 being low and 10 being a high level of satisfaction). Only 35% of children in Neighborhood A rated their satisfaction at 7 and above. Major factors influencing children’s play and their satisfaction with play opportunities included children’s fears, children’s freedoms, parental fears, how parents value play provision, community and environmental design, attitudinal barriers and tolerance issues within the communities, and community cohesion.
Children living in the more deprived neighborhood and reporting a higher level of play satisfaction had greater access to opportunities to play as a result of the freedoms afforded to them. A variety of interrelated factors contributed to these freedoms, including higher levels of community tolerance of children at play, children being less fearful of members of their community, and more staffed play provision.
These findings indicate that simply having more places to play does not automatically increase children’s level of satisfaction. Other factors, including child and parental fear and the development of a ‘play culture’ within communities, can greatly influence children’s freedom and opportunities to play.