Anecdotally across Logan, community members are deeply concerned for children and their healthy development. Consistently, stories from Logan’s parents, school principals, teachers, early childhood educators, education consultants, occupational therapists, community workers, researchers and service providers point towards deficiencies in childhood.
Deficiencies that are eroded by increasing opportunities for child-led free play. Deficiencies such as decline of speech in young children, the rise of rates of anxiety, stress in childhood. Increases in school refusal, rise of suspensions in 5, 6 and 7-years old’s from school due to behavioural outbreaks and children becoming safety hazards as well as decline in children generally knowing how to play.
There is now, in Logan, a significant adoption and movement towards increasing conditions and opportunities for quality child-directed free play as a powerful and joyous antidote to address all the issues outlined above.
Children of the Logan Neighbourhood Play Networks identified that having a neighbourhood for play eroded social isolation, loneliness, feelings of fear and distrust. Increased feelings of happiness and wellbeing, connection and cohesion in their immediate neighbourhood. It created many opportunities to develop social skills, talk constantly, practice language and how to be a good friend. It has provided many opportunities for the children to be active, learn news skills, gain confidence and competence, promoted weight loss and this increased localised play has helped them in other areas of their lives.
This includes doing better at school, playing more sport, getting involved in active extracurricular activities, decreasing screen time, and eating healthier. The children also suggested that having a neighbourhood play network has resulted in positive feeling towards their neighbourhood, reducing stigma and building community pride. Children suggested that the neighbourhood play network made them realise it was good to have back-up play options or other friend groups to play with, in case school friendships are not going well, suggesting the play was restorative and rejuvenating for children.
Parents of the neighbourhood play networks expressed that their children sleep better, supported their healthy language, communication, and social development, behave less erratically, are happier, settled and content. Parents also suggested that establishing neighbourhood play networks made the community feel safer and protective of their children.
Many Logan schools are adopting an approach to increase play. Principals are overwhelmed by the profound impact for the students, teachers and school culture. Attendance has increased, students are happier, have more friends, are more engaged, more resilient, less erratic, more creative and happier. The high-quality play on offer at these schools resulted in reported behaviour related incidents reduced by half. This means children are not getting into trouble during the day and are more involved in positive playful experiences. Resulting in happy children returning to class, and not carrying negative feelings associated with bad play experiences with them through the day. This also helps children who may have had a tough time at home, reset their brains and bodies, restore and not carry these experiences with them through the school day. All this helps children feel better about themselves, feel more competent and confident. All this helps children to be ready to learn.