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Playing For Real - Glasgow's Play Strategy 2011-2014

13/10/2011
​Glasgow Life has launched a visionary Play Strategy entitled ‘Playing for Real’, which sets out what is important about play and Glasgow’s priorities for play for the next three years.  The strategy underpins every child’s right to play and details how the city will protect and promote that right, through an improved understanding of play and its benefits.  Playing for Real is complimented by a Young Person’s version.
 
Glasgow’s Play Strategy is founded on the principle that play is fundamental to the development of healthy, happy children.  Further, that this ultimately contributes to a healthy, happy population and the development of a vibrant, fun city in which to grow up, live and work.  This premise brought together everyone who has a role in making sure children in Glasgow have the best opportunities to play and created Playing for Real. 
 
Councillor George Redmond, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “The vision for all children to have the opportunity to develop through pay is rightly ambitious, cutting across leisure, learning, health, work and our environment but it is ultimately achievable.
 
“I fully support the contribution that play makes to how Glasgow develops as a city.  Providing young people with places to go, opportunities to be active and ways to safely challenge themselves is extremely important.  I believe that the commitment to play will benefit our children and through them allow the city itself to flourish.”
 
Playing for Real and the city’s commitment to it guarantee the 92,000 plus children in Glasgow* under the age of 15 the chance to play.  It also invites young people and their communities to work with the organisations involved to influence and implement the plan. 
 
The strategy was launched at the Riverside Museum, where children from several primary schools encouraged the adults present to join them in a big fun game of Hoola Hoop Pass, a game that challenges all to work together. To keep up the good team work children partnered adults in a game of Hoop Scoop Tag, an exciting tig game all can play.  As well as reminding them how much fun play can be the session conveyed a serious message, which was the importance of providing opportunities for play.  Afterwards the children cut a giant cake decorated with the ‘Playing for Real Young Person’s Strategy’ logo.
 
Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive of Play Scotland, who spoke at the launch said; “Play supports many aspects of children’s development; their learning, socialisation, physical development, self-esteem, well-being and management of risk. Good play experiences enrich and enhance children’s lives in many ways with benefits for their health and well-being and that of the wider community, now and in the future.
 
“Glasgow’s Playing for Real is an excellent and timely strategy and it is important to pay tribute to everyone who has been involved. Well done to all.  Delivering the child’s right to play through this strategy will make a tremendous contribution to a healthier, safer, smarter and more attractive Glasgow.”
 
Research shows that children are playing out less and have less space in which to 'roam'.  Health and physical activity levels for children are also a concern.   Research also shows that parents are worried about the safety of their children; however children need to be able to take risks to challenge themselves.  Glasgow is taking a pro-active approach to ensure organisations that can change these issues come together and make a difference.
 
Fifteen aims have been translated into objectives against five broad themes; Playing for Life and Fun, Playing it Safe, Fit to Play, Learning through Play and Working at Play.  These themes emerged across all consultations with children, parents, play workers and key stakeholders and form the basis of the strategy.  An action plan will be created to accompany the strategy showing how the priorities will be delivered by a range of stakeholders and agencies.
 
Playing for Life and for Fun aims to ensure that play and its benefits are promoted, that barriers to play are removed and that we celebrate play’s contribution to the city. 
 
While children today may have greater technological freedom, research shows their lives have become more restricted as parents increasingly worry about the safety of their children.  Yet evidence suggests we are in danger of creating an environment that is almost too safe to play and in doing so inhibiting our children’s development.  Experts recommend youngsters need to be exposed to some risk to enable them to develop resilience and good risk-management skills.  Playing it Safe, the second theme, proposes the best play happens when it is safe enough to take risks and experience challenge.  Thus the strategy strives to provide an environment for play which is the best it can be and that vulnerable children in particular are not prevented from playing.
 
Outdoor play is a vital source of physical, intellectual and emotional stimulus for children, whose brain growth is 75% complete by the age of three.  These early years are essential for developing children's sense of adventure, stimulating their imagination and establishing important social and interpersonal skills for life.  Yet there is a growing concern that children spend too much time indoors, which is believed to be a contributory factor in the recent increase in childhood obesity. 
 
A key health concern for Glasgow is childhood obesity, with an estimated 16,439 children aged 5 to 15 overweight or obese.  Playing for Real’s third theme, Fit to Play, aims to support physically active play, recognising play as a pathway to health and well-being.  In particular, the city is keen to encourage families to play together.  Evidence from research into physical activity and play shows that encouraging children to be physically active has both short and longer term health benefits for the child and that these benefits can extend to the whole family.  Growing Up In Scotland research also suggests that active children become active adults who in turn have active children. 
 
Glasgow’s Education Service supports learning through play as the best way for children to participate and achieve.  Playing for Real identifies the importance of joining up play, learning and outdoor learning within and out with school in the community, which provides the focus of the fourth theme. 
 
A lack of playtime is also thought to be one explanation for some youth crime.  Experts believe children learn through play how to cope with social life and the rules of what is and what is not acceptable in society.  Those children not given the opportunity to explore and run off high spirits when they are young are more likely to want to do this later on.  This is one thought behind the involvement of youngsters in the recent riots in England.
 
Working at Play is the final theme.  Glasgow has a large children’s workforce and the strategy aims to support all of those working with children to facilitate quality play experiences and gain the skills they need to do this.
 
Andrea McMillan, Learning Manager for Glasgow Life, who lead the Playing for Real Strategy said: “Good play experiences enrich children’s lives in a number of ways and have wider benefits for health and wellbeing for the child now and in the future.  The opportunity for play also has benefits for the family and the community.  Delivering this strategy for play has real potential to make Glasgow healthier, safer, smarter and more attractive.”

The process began in 2009 when Glasgow Life’s Play Team lead a number of consultations with children, parents and stakeholders to understand what people cared about in relation to play.  In addition a base-line study ‘The State of Play’ was commissioned to garner the current provision for play in the city.  The strategy was guided by the Early Chilldhood Extended Services group, chaired by Director of Education Maureen McKenna and has cross agency representation from Social Work, Health, Education and the voluntary sector in Glasgow. 
 
The strategy sets out in greater detail the priorities within each section and how individual services will contribute to the achievement of these aims.  In many cases work is in progress**, in others it is planned and in others still the strategy necessitates the initiation of a new project to meet the strategic objective.
 
In March 2011 Professor Susan Deacon published her independent report into early years – ‘Joining the Dots – A Better Start for Scotland’s Children’.  The report advocates for early intervention, support to families and the value of play.  Glasgow’s Play Strategy, with its joint approach, is well placed to contribute. 
 
For a copy of ‘Playing for Real; Glasgow’s Play Strategy 2011 – 2014’ visit http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/about-us/playing-for-real-glasgow's-play-strategy-2011-2014/Pages/default.aspx.
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