"It’s almost 12 months since our Play Team have been able to deliver free, open access community-based outdoor play across the county. Having to tell children that we were no longer allowed to meet them in their local park each week was, looking back, one of the hardest things that Play Gloucestershire has ever had to do. As the global pandemic spread its horrors, we had no idea when we would be able to meet again.
Although we still have not resumed community play and re-connected with these children we do, at least, now have a positive 'road map' to hope.
Unsurprisingly, growing evidence is showing that children and young people have been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The reasons are many and varied, including separation or loss in their own families, economic hardship, interrupted education, few social interactions, more time spent online (with its associated risks) and reduced support from trusted adults (including our Play Rangers) in their lives.
Play Gloucestershire, though, have found new and creative ways to support children over the last 12 months, including packing and delivering 2,500 Bags of Play at the pandemic’s height and therapeutic Play Nurture support for children in need. Our charity has managed to plot a course through these dark days and we are in a solid position to resume our vital work – making sure that play is an essential part of a happy and healthy childhood.
As children return to education - and parents stop being emergency teachers who can once again focus on their own work - there is much talk about an emerging mental health crisis. Sadly, this is undoubtedly the case. However, as a strengths-based charity, we want to concentrate on the many positive ways that we can collaborate with young people to help them emerge and re-connect with their wider world through play.
What children need most this summer, even more than educational catch up, is the freedom to get outdoors, meet their peers, talk about their experiences, recover, build resilience and PLAY. The moment we get the green light, we will be more than ready to be part of a much needed community-based recovery through play."