Scotland's Play Strategy: Playing with quality and equality: a review of inclusive play in Scotland

A review of inclusive play in Scotland.

6. In the home and family environment - adults' survey

In the context of home and family environment, what do you feel are the barriers to being able participate fully in play?

Figure 10 Adults' survey

Figure 10 Adults' survey

The survey responses highlighted families' lack of confidence, parental fears, lack of knowledge, inadequate outdoor environments and time constraints amongst the factors that hinder inclusive play opportunities.

In addition to identifying barriers, we received 22 further comments regarding this question.

Many of these remarked on lack of confidence or knowledge. This was not generally seen to be as a result of lack of information, but rather lack of confidence to access information or put it into practice, in some cases resulting from of a lack of role models.

"Some parents have not had positive play experiences themselves so do not have the skills and knowledge to interact with their children and create an appropriate learning/play environment for them"

Others remarked on the physical and social environment that made playing at home and in the family environment more challenging or less appealing, and the constraints caused by work patterns.

"Families housed in homes without gardens, housing schemes with no designated play area… I feel some parents are preoccupied with the working week and forget to enjoy their time with their children on a daily basis"

"Many children living in social housing do not have access to safe outdoor play areas, and often live in homes with limited physical space to allow active play."

The concern about the quality of outdoor environments is a recurrent theme throughout the survey responses, in all domains:

"I feel that LAs (Local Authorities) and others providing play equipment provide too much that is 'off the shelf' with most parks the same as each other. They need to provide more opportunities for open ended, creative, imaginative play (e.g. dens, stages, tunnels etc.). I also feel they are too 'sterile' with no contact with natural materials (tarmac and that squidgy rubbery stuff)."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was concern voiced about the prominence of screens (TV, tablets and computer games) in many homes, and concern that there is a

"lack of knowledge about the adverse effects of excessive screen-time on children's health and development, and lack of knowledge of the importance of play and social interaction."

In the context of home and family environment do you wish or hope for play experiences that are different in some way from the way they are currently? In what way?

This question provoked rich responses which followed through from the areas of concern reported above - confidence, physical and social environments - with positive suggestions. The following gives a flavour of typical responses:

"that parents are supported to be playful with ideas and conversation. They need to feel relaxed, looked after themselves and valued in order to do this."

"People need to learn that 'play' does not need a lot of resources. Play can be achieved with simple and inexpensive means. However people may not know how to do that anymore."

"children should be allowed safe areas to enjoy free play and parents should have the confidence that they are safe from harm"

"I wish my children could climb trees like I used to. The trees in the woods where I grew up have had branches chopped off for health and safety so they can't be climbed. The woods are overgrown with long grass preventing children playing in them. They used to be well kept and a great environment for children to play and explore safely."

"Space to kick a ball"

"I wish parents were less focussed on providing their children with structured activities such as dance, drama, sports, music etc. classes; filling every minute. I wish children were allowed to get bored and just potter, doing nothing in particular, in all weathers outdoors."

In the context of home and family environment, can you give us any examples of when things were set up really well, support was provided in a way that really helped, or children and young people's wishes were genuinely respected in a way that helped them feel included?

Responses to this question, ranged from suggestions about supporting families to engage in everyday experiences with little or no costs, to services to encourage parents and foster their skills, through to those with a more specialist remit.

Throughout the survey, when we asked about good examples, we found a strong trend towards commenting on what we described as 'everyday, low key' actions. These were often examples of excellent practice and positive interactions at the right level for the family and children involved.

"CAMHS OT (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, Occupational Therapist) input has meant we have re-organised our living room (my son's play room) so that it is set up with low frustration items so that he can calm down after nursery. This has really helped us."

"Practitioners modelling play with parents. This is undertaken after assessment of difficulties and identification of what is needed alongside the parent.

"We are fortunate to have access to a community nursery nurse and she works with a number of families to support the parents with play and ideas for play. The families she visits have felt and feel a huge benefit from her input. However many of them can sustain the level of play/interaction for a short time on their own and inevitably the nursery nurse has to revisit them again to reinforce the key messages around play"

"I have loaned a family some special lighting for them to try with their child to gauge what sensory items she might like of her own as they want to invest in a sensory room specific for her needs. So they are communicating her wishes from her reactions to various ideas. (This is all very costly equipment and very specialised)."

However, it should be noted that a number of respondents said that they could think of no good examples and others pointed to the distance between the aspiration and how they viewed their own experience.

"At home, we encourage our child to go out to play. We support sporting activities by taking him to football clubs, anchor boys, swimming etc. but in terms of opportunities outwith the family i.e. via our local community trust then no I cannot think of an example where they set things up really well, provided support, respected the wishes of young people that made them feel included - I am almost laughing at the thought of how far away from this this Trust is."

This is the outcome we are aiming for

"Our homes and family environments are places where all children and young people enjoy plentiful play opportunities, appropriate to their age, stage, needs and preferences." Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision (2013) Scottish Government.

These are things that could help achieve this

It would help if:

  • There was a large scale, properly resourced campaign undertaken to promote the importance of play to parents and carers, and to those who work with them (taking into account of quality and equality in play, therefore children's play rights including the play rights of disabled children and young people).
  • The value of play was understood by professionals and organisations working for, or with, children and those whose work has an impact on children's play.
  • A coordinated approach was taken between third sector, government and public agencies to ensure 'reach' of the key messages.
  • There was coordinated work to improve the child- and play-friendly design of interior and exterior spaces at the earliest stages in development of housing stock.
  • Support around play was available to families of disabled children at the earliest stages of the child's life through both universal provision and the third sector services.

See also 'Emergent Themes'.


Email: Deborah Gallagher

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