Children’s physical and mental health is under threat, according to Mark Hardy, chair of the Association of Play Industries.

A ticking time bomb

hundreds of playgrounds. The report showed that between 2014/15

and 2015/16 local authorities across England closed 214 children’s playgrounds, and when asked about future plans they admitted their aim to close a further 234. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the API once again asked local authorities in November 2018 to disclose current and planned playground closures and found: • By 2020/21 there will have been a decrease in spend on play facilities of 44 per cent since 2017/18

CHILDREN are increasingly sedentary, isolated and indoors on their screens, and with dwindling community outdoor play provision their current and future wellbeing is being put at risk. The latest research shows that community

playgrounds continue to close at an alarming rate despite the government’s claims that they are tackling childhood obesity and mental health problems. In April 2017, the Association of Play Industries Nowhere to Play report first uncovered the state of playground decline in England, revealing the closure of

• In 2016/17 local authorities closed 63 playgrounds and in 2017/18 a further 70 playgrounds have been closed.

• Since 2014 local authorities have closed a total of 347 playgrounds across England.

• There will be a decrease in spend on playgrounds of over £13m each year on average across England.

• Local authorities estimate a decrease in their spending on playgrounds of £25m by 2021.

screens are displacing play More recently, the API released A Movement for Movement, which shows, for the first time, a

strong link between recreational screen time and children’s inactivity. Children are choosing to spend their leisure time on screens instead of playing outside. They are experiencing a strong inducement from screens to stay indoors coupled with a lack of suitable play provision outdoors. By the time they finish primary school, many

children have the highest levels of body fat on record. Rates of child Type 2 diabetes and mental illness are also the highest in our history. Children now sleep less and have the highest level of admissions to NHS hospitals for sleep disorders. At the same time British children are spending the highest ever amount of their discretionary time in front of screens, and young children have never moved so little. There is growing evidence that these

observations are not entirely unrelated. Increasingly, interrelationships are being identified between physical activity, free play, sedentary behaviour, discretionary screen time, sleep, mental illness, body fat and type 2 diabetes. Yet these health issues are often presented

as separate lifestyle factors, with separate bodies of evidence and debates surrounding


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