Research helps develop play-friendly communities
An occupational therapist is using her research to develop a play-friendly community in an East Lothian village.
Silvia Veiga-Seijo, a PhD student at Queen Margaret University, is running a research project involving both children and community members from the village of Whitecraig. The project listens to the children’s perspectives of play in the community with a focus on creating a play-friendly community with children in the village. It is hoped that Silvia’s work will be used to shape new policies and develop best practice around play and play facilities for children. Ultimately, the research may lead to improved equality of access to play opportunities in communities, improving the lives of children nationally and internationally.
Originally from A Coruña in Spain, Silvia is studying towards her PhD with Queen Margaret University and University College Cork within the P4PLAY programme. Discussing the importance of play, Silvia explained:
"Play is a fundamental right for every child and an important activity in their lives. Children learn, explore and understand the world around them through play. It is critical for children’s development and is fundamental for their health and well-being. We also know that when children play in the community, this can make a positive contribution to the development of supportive, healthy and cohesive communities. Therefore, play is an issue of social and occupational justice, and every child should have the right to play in their everyday lives."
She continued: “However, reports from around the world are confirming that there is a growing deprivation of play; and therefore, policies, declarations and organisations want to deliver play sessions and play programmes to increase the outdoor play of children. However, little is known about how play happens in the community and what play opportunities children would like to have in their community.”
Silvia is there putting the opinions of children at the centre of this research. She confirmed: “The children in Whitecraig are the experts in their play, so their perspectives will lead the course of this research. If we can see things through their eyes and learn from their experiences and thoughts, we can use this rigorous knowledge to work with councils, community groups, funders, families and volunteers to improve opportunities and facilities for play in different communities.”
The research is focused on understanding what, how, when and where play happens in the community, what limits or supports play and how the community can be more play-friendly. This involves listening to the children’s experiences of play, as well as considering the opinions of community members who live or work in the village. Silvia has started to involve young children and families in the project, advertising the project through visits to Whitecraig Primary School and the Whitecraig Village Hub.
Silvia explained: “Children will take part in individual and group activities using creative and participatory methods, such as a big map of the community, a tour of their play activities, taking photographs and videos of their play, drawing or using arts and crafts to show their play. They are being empowered to decide how we will research play in their community.”
It is hoped that the findings of the research will be used in the future by designers of play areas, those who create policies; and more generally, for all professionals who work with children in schools and community centres. Silvia said:
"The research could have real potential to influence policy development, reports, initiatives, programmes and practices which will assist in improving provision for ‘play-friendly’ communities across Scotland and beyond. It is also a useful example of research which focuses on children-based practices, in which children’s participation is key."
"I’m excited about the far-reaching possibilities of this research to shine a light on equality of access to play opportunities, and the positive changes that this could lead to for children in communities in Scotland and internationally."
Silvia is still looking for children and families who might like to get involved in this exciting child-led research. To take part or find out more contact Silvia on E: SVeiga-Seijo@qmu.ac.uk M: 07354 473082 or via Facebook @PlaywithChildrenWhitecraig.
This research is supervised by Dr Sarah Kantartzis, Senior Lecturer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and Professor Jeanne Jackson, University College Cork, Ireland, and supported by Theresa Casey from the East Lothian Play Association (ELPA, Scotland), which is the partner organisation of Silvia’s project. The P4PLAY programme is a European Joint Doctoral programme in Occupational Science for Occupational Therapists funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network. Silvia has developed a new Advisory Expert Group with East Lothian Play Association, which provides advice on the different stages of the project.
Notes to Editor
P4PLAY is a European Joint Doctoratal programme in Occupational Science for Occupational Therapists funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network.
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