Opening up the streets for kids to play safely and freely

Research published this month in the South African Journal of Occupational Therapy found that street play‚ often overlooked as an important activity for children‚ conjured up anxieties about safety.

Open Streets Cape Town co-founder and MD, Marcela Guerrero, tells 702 host Azania Mosaka of this initiative that first swept through London‚ Australia and Canada. He says it has seen local authorities allowing parents to close off their streets for a few hours for their children to make the same memories - and tackle urban isolation and childhood obesity.

Guerrero says they brought the initiative to Cape Town four years ago. She says this means people shutting down traffic to allow for more walking, skateboarding and other activities that'll include both children and adults.

I think there is a lot of value and power in creating a platform where people can feel safe and free. A lot of times that happens when people come together.

Marcela Guerrero, Co Founder and MD of Open Streets Cape Town

Occupational Therapist at Groote Schuur Hospital, Amanda Brackmann is part of a team that conducted an experiment which explored the street play experiences of pre-teens in Belhar‚ Cape Town. She says they found that resources such playgrounds and access community centres were available however the children prefered playing in the streets.

She says they found it powerful that children could decide what games they wanted to play and who they wanted to play with.

They used the streets in order to come together as friends and to develop their own identities. They used it to control their own play.

Amanda Brackmann, Occupational Therapist at Groote Schuur Hospital

Parents in other studies often sighted ‘stranger danger’ as a limiting factor.

Amanda Brackmann, Occupational Therapist at Groote Schuur Hospital

In other words‚ we have accepted as ‘normal’ that streets are dangerous places instead of trying to understand the dynamics at micro level. We simply avoid the space.

Marcela Guerrero, Co Founder and MD of Open Streets Cape Town

Take a listen to the rest of conversation in the audio clip:

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