Growing quality connections between neighbours to (i) unite people and (ii) build shared ways of working; is fundamental to the success of Play Streets, particularly when seeking to sustain regular opportunities in the long-term.
Connections between neighbours form the foundation of support for Play Streets, where people help each other and look out for those community members in most need.
Connection also fosters feelings of belonging and increases perceptions of safety, which means families and neighbours feel more confident to venture outside to connect and play.
In short, building quality connections between neighbours enhances the overall health of communities.
Fostering quality play experiences for children that support their healthy development is another essential aspect of a Play Street.
To support play we recommend that Play Street organisers:
- Make time for unstructured play, where children are free to engage with nature, equipment, loose parts and activities in any manner they choose.
- Encourage creative play or pretend play.
- Support physical fitness and fundamental movement skills by giving children space and equipment to; run, jump, hop, balance, throw or ride bikes (examples only), and;
- Facilitate fun and inclusive minor games (with few rules) led by adults or children that can further promote play.
We must recognise the essential role of local residents as leaders, in defining WHAT their Play Street looks like and HOW they support the roll out.
Local leadership is important, to ensure the Play Street meets the needs of local communities and to ensure coordination efforts can be sustained in future.
Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined, not only between LGAs and communities; but critically, between local residents themselves, so coordination can be properly shared and supported from the street.
Our local leaders are critical to the Play Streets movement.
We must support equity of opportunity for all interested communities in Australia to be involved in Play Streets.
We recognise that many communities do not live in quiet residential streets or have the capacity, capability or motivation to run Play Streets, even though they may have interest in being involved.
In these circumstances it is appropriate for Local Government Authorities and other agencies to build support for these communities, in order to “work toward” a locally-led model in future.
In short, some people will need more help than others to get involved.
We must ensure the safety of communities at all times when they are using streets as shared spaces.
This means parents, communities and policymakers all share responsibility to keep themselves, children and our most vulnerable community members safe on our roads.
For example, balancing safety may involve; parents providing increased supervision for young children; policymakers coordinating traffic calming interventions within residential areas; and motorists sharing roads in a safe and respectful manner always.
Safety is paramount always.
Lastly, it’s important we identify existing opportunities to help fast-track or improve local efforts to organise and sustain Play Streets.
This may include capitalising on established programs, partnerships, resources, policies and practices that both Communities and Local Governments already have in place – for example:
- using current temporary street closure policy for street parties as a starting point to develop new play street policies; or
- using tested community engagement methods to connect with communities, such as local community events, meetings or outreach approaches like door-knocking.
Don’t forget to provide engaged residence an opportunity to identify further supports that could enhance shared approaches as well.