The new neighbourhood normal for children
Are you happy with the new neighbourhood narrative?
We have lived through a story of freedom, fun, friends, challenge and adventure, only to see this story step into an alternate universe where the complete opposite is now the dominant narrative unfolding in neighbourhoods for children.
After dedicating 12 months to exploring ‘Neighbourhood Play’ in depth, after traversing many areas of South East Queensland, walking neighbourhoods with residents, and talking with over 240 parents and children – after discussing emerging neighbourhood play themes with sociologists, psychologists, town planners, pediatricians, parenting experts and many others – we have honed our knowledge and can now ,with unfortunate certainty, share with you some very alarming facts.
These facts, if unattended, point towards a negative trajectory not only for children, but for the health of the nation. The facts also highlight simple, cost effective and health-improving benefits that will follow if we prioritise creating neighbourhoods where children can connect and play.
The facts are:
1. Most Queensland children are banned from the neighbourhood.
2. Children’s daily physical and social activity is reduced as a result of not having access to local, neighbourhood friends.
3. Queensland children’s overall health and wellbeing are compromised as a result.
4. Widespread parental fear of stranger danger is at the center of most children being banned from the neighbourhood.
5. Neighbourhood trust is low and rebuilding local trust will require a significant investment of time, support and financial resources.
6. A significant cultural change in the way we view neighbours is required to establish and nurture a new neighbourhood play narrative.
7. Many key stakeholders will need to be involved to create this widespread change.
8. Currently no other focus, work or research is being done in the area of neighbourhood play in Queensland, and very little is being done in Australia.
9. More research is needed to better understand the neighbourhoods that children can access if they are living in high density apartments, regional or remote areas.
10. Queensland children who can access neighbourhood play improve their physical health and practice socio-emotional skills.
11. Neighbourhoods with children playing in them are less fearful, and more connected, cohesive, and trusting places for all who participate.
12. Fear and distrust are eroded by local grown-ups taking time to meet and get to know each other.
13. Grown-ups who make the time to connect locally, feel a sense of local empowerment and a deeper sense of community.
14. Queensland children need their neighbourhoods as a play resource and need the grown-ups to begin work on securing the neighbourhood as a play resource.
15. Some children have already been missed, and more will be missed while we begin making the social changes children need. The health and wellbeing of these children will need medical support.
The answer is simple, and requires little comparative effort when the lifelong benefits to our children are considered.
Are you the local play champion your neighbourhood needs?
You can find many supporting resources, including links to the full feature documentary made from this research project, on the Neighbourhood Play page of the Nature Play QLD website.
You can join the Neighbourhood Play Project facebook group for more support, ideas and stories.