Leeds is taking an innovative approach to the #SummerOfPlay by inviting residents across the city to host a Play Street.
A Play Street allows children and young people to enjoy themselves outdoors even if they are unable to access a park or playground in their neighbourhood. It involves closing a road to traffic for a couple of hours, often once a month, so that neighbours can connect and children play together in a safe traffic-free space.
From 1st June, the first ten people to apply to host a Play Street will receive a FREE Play Street Kit box, with all the equipment needed to get a Play Street ‘up and running’. E-mail: PlayLeeds@leeds.gov.uk to find out more or get your application in via the link below.
Organised by residents, Play Streets are free as well as fun, and have been found to increase children’s levels of physical activity. One study found children are five times as active on Play Street days compared to a normal school day.
Leeds is a trailblazer for Play Streets, winning a national award in 2018 in recognition of its red-tape snipping system for enabling residents to turn their street into a play zone. Before the pandemic, there were almost 100 active applications for Play Streets in the city.
Play Street sessions can be held weekly, monthly, quarterly or as a one off proposal. The street is closed to through traffic during play sessions but will still be open to the people that live there.
Let’s take to the streets to play out this summer – for our children’s mental wellbeing, to improve air quality, and re-connect with our neighbours and friends. #SummerofPlay is a campaign recently launched by Save the Children to highlight the importance of play, with supporters including the NSPCC, Lego Foundation and Leeds City Council.
TV presenter, journalist and author Jeremy Paxman, 71, grew up in Leeds. He says: “Play Streets are self-evidently a good idea. I was lucky enough to grow up in the countryside, with space to play. All children should have the chance to play safely.”
#SummerOfPlay is a campaign to give children the space, time, and freedom to play this summer as the Covid-19 restrictions are eased. 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.
Application process & organising
If you’d like to close your street to traffic so your children can play out for a couple of hours once a month or so, you can apply using the link below. We also have further guidance on this page. If you’re thinking of trialing a Play Street as a one off and invite the residents on your street, we ask you to join Child Friendly Leeds in celebrating Play Day UK on Wednesday 4 August 2021. We will provide some cool activities, competitions in the coming weeks and encourage the city to #GoOrange with us for that day.
Over the past few years, dozens of residents in Leeds have organised Play Streets. As a city, we’ve won prizes for the work we’ve done to make Play Streets happen. Would you like to be part of the Play Streets party?
Play is a fundamental part of growing up and this initiative of Play Streets has been happening for a few years. To connect with other Play Street organisers, please join the Facebook Group below:
Tips on running a Play Street
Sarah Priestley lives in North Leeds and has been hosting Play Streets for 6 years. She says: “It’s a really simple process to apply for the traffic order.
The first thing we did was get together as a group of parents and work out when it would make sense for us to do the Play Street.
I put a slip of paper through all the letterboxes on our street explaining that we planned a monthly Play Street on a Sunday, which meant our neighbours knew what to expect. That took the edge off a bit when I went to talk to them. Speaking to everyone individually really helped. Initially, there may be one or two individuals who don’t like the idea of a Play Street. For example, there’s someone on our street who sometimes needs urgent healthcare so I was able to reassure her that of course a vehicle would be able to get in if she needed healthcare while the Play Street was on.
One thing I’ve learnt from running Play Streets is the importance of getting into a rhythm. Embrace bad weather – don’t let it put you off. Kids will put on wellies and splash around, even if it’s just for half an hour. If you go ahead whatever the weather, you can keep a rhythm going.
I’ve also discovered something that really surprised me – Play Streets aren’t just for the children. The kids have really enjoyed playing out together, that’s true. But I feel the bigger benefit has been for the adults. Normally when you go out of your front door you don’t have time to chat, so this has been a great way for people to get to know each other. Some of the older people on our street don’t have any family nearby, so coming out to chat for a couple of hours has been really important to them. I can tell you a story about every person on our street, and that’s all thanks to the Play Street.”
Images taken above from various play streets in Leeds, including Play Box from Playful Anywhere joining us for May Half-Term 2021 in Briggate, Leeds City Centre.
All details for Play Streets Leeds can be found via the Leeds City Council website: https://www.leeds.gov.uk/parking-roads-and-travel/licences-and-permits/play-streets
The following advisory notes may be useful when planning a Play Street during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please refer to the tips for running a Play Street at this time produced by Playing Out, the national organisation for promoting and advising on Play Streets.
Find useful information and free downloadable resources on the Playing Out website. ‘Playing Out’ is a not-for-profit organisation set up by parents to activate street play across the UK.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we hope we can still have a #SummerOfPlay wherever you are. However, please do check the government guidance regularly in case national changes occur.