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Unleashing the Power of Play: A Glimpse into the Association of Play Industries

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

In an era defined by technology and rapid urbanisation, where the landscape of childhood has shifted dramatically, the importance of play in the lives of our youngest generation remains steadfast. Recognising this need and dedicated to championing the cause of play. The Association of Play Industries (API) has been a leading force for nearly three decades.



As a stalwart advocate for children's play, the API has tirelessly worked to ensure that the value of outdoor play and recreational spaces is upheld, safeguarded and celebrated.


The history of the Association of Play Industries is a testament to its unwavering commitment to the well-being of children. Founded in 1984, the API has consistently served as a driving force behind the creation and preservation of play environments across the United Kingdom. With a deep-rooted history spanning over 35 years, the organisation has played an instrumental role in shaping the landscape of play and recreation.


At its core, the API's mission is clear and compelling: to provide children and young people with the opportunities to experience the joy, physical activity and social interaction that outdoor play spaces afford. As we explore the API's history, aims and achievements in this article, we will gain valuable insights into the profound impact that this organisation has had on our communities and more importantly, on the lives of countless children across the nation. Through advocacy, education and collaboration, the API stands as a powerful advocate for the transformative potential of play, striving to ensure that every child has the opportunity to grow, learn, and develop through the joy of play.



Dr. Amanda Gummer, Chair of the API answered key questions about the progress and aims of the association and the future of children's play.


Can you share your insights on why children today seem to engage in outdoor play less than previous generations? What factors do you believe contribute to this trend?

There are several factors contributing to the decline in outdoor play among children today. One major factor is the prevalence of technology and screen time. With the easy accessibility of smartphones, tablets, and video games, children are often drawn to indoor, sedentary activities. Additionally, parents' concerns about safety have increased, leading to more structured and supervised activities, which limit children's independent outdoor playtime. Factors like academic pressures, increased urbanisation and the lack of accessible, safe play spaces also contribute to this trend.


What role does the Association of Play Industries play in advocating for and promoting play among children? How are you addressing the challenges that limit children's outdoor playtime?

The Association of Play Industries (API) plays a crucial role in advocating for and promoting play among children. We work closely with policymakers, local authorities and other stakeholders to emphasise the importance of play in children's development. We actively lobby for investments in play spaces, equipment and facilities, providing resources and guidance on creating safe and engaging play environments. We collaborate with schools, local governments and communities to increase opportunities for outdoor play and address the challenges that limit children's playtime, such as inadequate play spaces and budget constraints.


In your opinion, how important is outdoor play for children's physical and mental development? Are there specific benefits that children gain from outdoor play that may be at risk in today's society?

Outdoor play is of paramount importance for children's physical and mental development. It promotes physical fitness, motor skills and social interaction, helping children maintain a healthy lifestyle. It also fosters creativity, imagination and problem-solving abilities, which are essential for cognitive development. Additionally, outdoor play allows children to connect with nature and studies show that this connection positively affects their mental well-being, reducing stress and anxiety. In today's society, these benefits are at risk due to the decline in outdoor play, which can result in physical inactivity and missed opportunities for essential skill development and well-being.


Technology and screen time have become increasingly prevalent in children's lives. How does the API plan to strike a balance between technology and outdoor play to ensure children are engaging in healthy, active playtime?

The API acknowledges the challenge of balancing technology and outdoor play. We advocate for the responsible use of technology and encourage parents and educators to set limits on screen time. We also promote the integration of technology into outdoor play experiences, such as using interactive apps that enhance learning and engagement in play environments. By embracing technology as a tool to enhance, rather than replace, outdoor play, we aim to strike a balance that ensures children engage in healthy, active playtime.


Are there disparities in access to play spaces and equipment for children from different socioeconomic backgrounds? How does the API work to ensure that all children have equal play opportunities?

Disparities in access to play spaces do exist, particularly for children from different socio-economic backgrounds and those with additional needs. The API is committed to addressing this issue by advocating for inclusive and accessible play spaces in all communities. We are keen to work more closely with local authorities to ensure that funding and resources are allocated equitably and playgrounds are designed to be inclusive, bridging the gap and providing all children with equal play opportunities.


How does the API collaborate with schools, local governments, and communities to create more opportunities for children to play outdoors? Can you share some successful partnerships or strategies in this regard?

The API is keen to collaborate with schools, local governments and communities to create more opportunities for outdoor play. We are in the process of conducting research into the barriers that schools face when trying to prioritise play. We have recently developed an Inclusive play section of the API website and a dedicated section for schools that can help them access funding.


What initiatives or programmes has the API implemented or supported to encourage outdoor play among children? Can you provide examples of successful projects that have made a positive impact?

The API regularly runs campaigns highlighting the importance of outdoor play for children. Our Nowhere to Play research uncovered an alarming decline in play provision and A Movement for Movement showed, for the first time, a strong link between recreational screen time and children’s inactivity. PlayMustStay surveyed over 1100 parents, the majority of whom said that playgrounds were vital in getting their children active, and most recently, Equal Play demonstrated that children’s access to play spaces is unequal and unfair. The API also supports campaigns such as PlayDay, the national day for play in the UK which takes place every August.


The API regularly runs campaigns highlighting the importance of outdoor play for children. Our Nowhere to Play research uncovered an alarming decline in play provision and A Movement for Movement showed, for the first time, a strong link between recreational screen time and children’s inactivity. PlayMustStay surveyed over 1100 parents, the majority of whom said that playgrounds were vital in getting their children active, and most recently, Equal Play demonstrated that children’s access to play spaces is unequal and unfair. The API also supports campaigns such as PlayDay, the national day for play in the UK which takes place every August.

Research suggests that fear of safety concerns is one of the reasons parents limit outdoor play for their children. How is the API addressing these concerns and promoting safe play environments?

The API provides resources and guidance on creating safe play environments, including appropriate surfacing, supervision and maintenance. We also advocate for policies that support safe play spaces and work with local authorities to ensure that play areas are well-maintained and meet safety standards. It’s worth pointing out that statistically, children are safer in playgrounds than they are in their own homes!


As technology and urbanisation continue to shape our environments, what innovative approaches does the API plan to take to ensure that play remains an integral part of children's lives?

The API recognises the need for innovative approaches to ensure play remains integral in children's lives. This may include incorporating technology into play experiences, creating multi-functional play spaces that cater to a variety of activities, and utilising sustainable materials in play equipment. We aim to adapt to the changing environment and find creative solutions to keep play at the forefront of children's experiences.

In a rapidly changing world, what is the API's vision for the future of children's play and what long-term strategies do you have in place to meet the evolving needs of children and their families?

The API's vision for the future of children's play is one where every child has access to high-quality, inclusive play spaces that support their physical, social and emotional development. Our long-term strategies involve continued collaboration with stakeholders, advocacy for policy changes that prioritise play and investments in innovative play solutions that adapt to evolving needs. We are committed to making a lasting impact on the well-being and development of children and their families.


How can parents, schools and community members contribute to the API's mission of promoting outdoor play for children? What can individuals do to support this cause?

Parents, educators and community members can contribute to the API's mission by advocating for play-friendly policies, supporting local play initiatives and providing safe and stimulating play environments for children. They can engage with the API through the support of our advocacy efforts, staying informed about the importance of play and sharing our content with their networks. Individual support is vital in promoting outdoor play and ensuring it remains a priority.

What can we expect from the Association of Play Industries in the coming years in terms of embracing the challenge of increasing children's access to outdoor play and its associated benefits?

In the coming years, we will continue to focus on increasing children's access to outdoor play. We will expand our efforts to support our members in offering innovative play solutions and advocate for policies that prioritise play in children's lives. We are committed to embracing the challenge of increasing children's access to outdoor play and ensuring that all children can enjoy its associated benefits.




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