Last year Stomping Ground were invited to deliver a project in partnership with the residents of Hillside Estate, Maryport and Your Housing Association. The aim was to encourage healthy living and positive use of the green spaces on their estate, children living there were already “playing out” on a regular basis but there were concerns from adults on the estate that their play wasn’t always safe.
Stomping Grounds main aim is to use creative arts and the outdoors to strengthen and celebrate communities – so this project was right up our street and we were very excited to be part of it.
The framework for the project was delivering child led play sessions that took place once a week and were drop-in for any child on the estate that wanted to get involved, we combined these sessions with an Outdoor Family Play Day every 6-8 weeks, that was open to everyone on the estate and focused on celebrating the strengths of the adults and children and just having fun together.
The content and delivery of the weekly sessions developed over time, beginning with structured activities always including games, healthy snacks, and a creative element. This structure was needed at first because we had to get to know the children, their play spaces, their interests, and what support was needed, as well as giving us an opportunity to role model positive play dynamics with adults and children.
However wherever possible Stomping Ground wants to be person centered or child led in our approach to working with communities, we take this approach because any work with a focus on personal development needs to place the power for change firmly in the participant’s hands.
This was one of the elements that the staff working on this project really enjoyed because it was obvious from early in the sessions that the children were very capable of independent play due to being allowed to “play-out” regularly. We felt this was a major strength of the community and wanted to celebrate it much as possible. It is becoming rare to find children that have an opportunity to “play-out” unsupervised or participate in some unstructured activities and we enjoyed supporting this process.
Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods”(2005) termed the effects of more screen time, parental safety fears and restrictions on accessing natural areas as “nature deficit disorder”. According to Louv children that don’t spend time outdoors and that have little or no connection with nature are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and attention disorders, in other words “playing out” breeds resilience.
Whilst Louv’s work was criticised for not being medically sound and cannot be recognised as a medical condition there has been numerous studies that prove children in 2016 have very little access to independent outdoor play compared to all the generations before them. Our general loss of connection to nature and time spent outdoors can have very negative effects on an individual’s health and wellbeing and we won’t know the long term effects on communities for decades to come.
Stomping Ground would like to give our sincerest thanks to all the residents of all ages who came out to play with us in 2016 and we hope to see you again soon.