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  • New research from Save the Children and Beano Brain reveals more than half of children are playing outside and with their friends less - and a quarter are less active - than before the pandemic hit
  • Leading charities, businesses and child development experts are calling on the country to help get children playing this summer, to avoid a long-term development crisis

More than 30 leading organisations from across the UK are joining forces to invite businesses, charities and the Government to take a #SummerOfPlay pledge and ensure all children get the opportunity to play this summer so as to repair some of the mental and physical damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Summer of Play campaign, co-ordinated by Playfirst UK, Save the Children, Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales, Playboard Northern Ireland and others, is appealing for a major national effort to get children playing in order to bolster wellbeing and reduce the risk of any long-term impact on children’s development as a result of recent lockdowns.

The call comes as new research conducted by insights consultancy Beano Brain on behalf of Save the Children reveals that 92% of children say the way they play has changed since the pandemic hit.

According to the survey, over half (51%) of children say they are playing outside and with friends less than before the pandemic, while a third (34%) of children said they play alone more than they used to. Almost a quarter (23%) of children revealed they’re playing less sport and being less active than they used to be.

These results follow research from Oxford Brookes University which found that lockdown restrictions, reduced external play and more sedentary behaviour had the potential to damage children’s long term development.

The Summer of Play campaign has already won the backing of dozens of eminent organisations - including The Arsenal Foundation, The Lego Foundation, British Cycling and UK Youth - who are committed to ensuring that as many children as possible across the UK, particularly those from deprived or marginalised communities, can access fun and safe opportunities to play this summer as Covid restrictions lift.

Dan Paskins, director of UK impact at Save the Children said: “Children across the UK and around the world have missed out on so much over the past year. Creating more opportunities for children to play is crucial for making up for some of that missed fun and helping to support their health and wellbeing as we emerge from the pandemic.

“We also know that for people living in poverty, accessing safe places to play can be even harder. We want to focus on creating more opportunities for children from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds who have been disporpoprtionately impaced by the pandemic.”

Anita Grant, Chair of Play England said: “The pandemic has affected every single child and young person as well as their families and caregivers. Children have been lonely, isolated and anxious.  A Summer of Play will enable children to reconnect with friends, have fun and start to rebuild health and resilience after unprecedented restrictions.  

“This campaign is for the next generation’s health, happiness and wellbeing.  Free play is what children do when no-one is telling them what not to do!  Playing freely allows brains to think, skills to develop and creativity and imagination to flow.  Now is the time to make space for play and to allow children to recover.”

Helen Dodd, Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Reading said: “Play with friends is a central part of childhood, it is intrinsically valuable, bringing fun and joy to children’s lives. It also offers opportunities for learning about negotiation, social skills, emotions and relationships. Over the past year children’s play with their friends has been restricted and there is evidence that their mental health has deteriorated.

“Amongst all the talk of educational catch-up it is vital that we don’t forget that children have also missed out on play with their friends, physical activity and fun. In February, PlayFirstUK wrote to government urging them to ensure children get time to play this summer. This campaign builds on that and is about community action; coming together with a wide range of diverse organisations to give children the summer of play they deserve, to help them catch up on so much of what they have missed this past year.”

Pete Maginn, Director of Insight at Beano Brain said: “Since the schools first shut in March 2020 we’ve been tracking the behaviours and sentiment of over 3 million kids 7-14 to hear first hand how their lives have changed. The inability to see friends in person has constantly been their biggest concern and our latest research reveals that even now despite restrictions easing they are still not enjoying the play freedom they had before the pandemic.

Our latest research reveals that half of UK kids (52%) themselves want to use this summer to get outside and play with their friends as freely as possible. Of course their schooling has been disrupted this year but that is nothing compared to the wider social, physical and emotional impact on their lives and social play is the perfect way to help remedy that.”

The Summer of Play campaign is asking organisations to pledge their support at www.summerofplay.co.uk


Spokespeople are available. To arrange an interview please contact f.carr@savethechildren.org.uk/ 020 7012 6841  

Notes to Editors:

About the Summer of Play campaign

The Summer of Play campaign is coordinated by Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales, PlayBoard NI, playfirstuk, Playing Out and Save the Children. The campaign is is asking organisations and individuals to pledge their support for children’s play by visiting www.summerofplay.co.uk

Save the Children

Save the Children fights every single day for children’s futures. We stand side by side with children in the toughest places to be a child. In places where others won’t go, we’re there, giving everything to make sure they survive, get protected, and have the chance to learn. Every child should get to make their mark on the world and build a better future for us all.

For more information visit www.savethechildren.org.uk


Beano Brain Omnibus data from questions asked between 29th April and 4th May 2021. n= 4556 7- 14 year olds in the UK

About Beano Brain

Beano Brain is the insights consultancy from Beano Studios. Born from decades of engaging kids, it now helps companies build their own connections with families using its unparalleled knowledge of Gen Alpha, Gen Z and their Millennial parents. Its proprietary direct to kids insight services pair millions of data points with rich, bespoke insights to tell an empathetic, insightful and often untold global view of kids, teens and their families. For more information visit beanobrain.com