The move came despite the Government ruling that play areas, which were shut during the first lockdown last year, could stay open this time round.
Playing Out has received reports from parents angry that police officers have told their children to stop playing and go home, including a nine and an 11-year-old playing in the snow last week in a park near their south London flat.
Ms Ferguson said: “The children were making a snowman in their local park, nowhere near anyone else – and a police officer told them to go home and ‘do this in your own garden’. The dad said it was really upsetting for the boys who felt like they had done something wrong and irresponsible. We also know that many parents are just confused and uncertain about what the rules are, so reluctant to take kids out to play at all.”
In another case Charlotte Thorne, from central London, said her children were told off for playing football in their local park during the first lockdown last year.
“The police stopped my daughter and her friend climbing a tree. We don’t have much access to outside space other than the parks,” she told Playing Out. “I’ve encouraged the children to go there alone so that they maintain their independence and their fitness levels so it’s really frustrating when they are policed so closely for bothering no one and doing no harm.”
Ingrid Skeels, Co-Director of Playing Out, said, “Whilst Wales and Scotland have both clearly stated in their guidance that outdoor play is not just allowed but important for children’s wellbeing, the UK government’s rules for England do not mention play. Just a simple change in the wording would mean parents can feel confident to let their children play outside – with the huge benefits that brings – without fear of being told off or even fined”.
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, backed the call, stating, “Guidance needs to make very clear that outside play is allowed. We need the government to act now, particularly to protect the needs of the most disadvantaged children and those without any private outdoor space.”
Mr Johnson has yet to respond to Playing Out’s letter, but a Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the importance of exercise to the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of children, which is why playgrounds have remained open during the national lockdown and outdoor exercise is permitted.
“Playgrounds are primarily for use by children who do not have access to private outdoor space, and while parents, guardians or carers are allowed to take children to a playground for exercise, they must not socialise with other people while there.”