The Real Play City Challenge invites cities that are interested in implementing a child-friendly urban planning strategy to express their desire for running a pilot project.

The Real Play Coalition competition is driven by the newly released Urban Play Framework, a new tool to help cities create environments that nurture play and promote children’s development.

On 11 February 2020, the Real Play Coalition (RPC) – a consortium made up of Arup, IKEA (Ingka Group), National Geographic, the LEGO Foundation and UNICEF, together with the Placemaker Network announced the launch of the playful cities challenge, which encourages city-wide play initiatives and a more strategic approach to incorporating learning through play principles in city design and planning. The challenge aims at generating new play-based solutions to boost and integrate learning through play opportunities in cities around the world, to ultimately enhance the quality of playful experiences and support optimal child development.

Starting April 1st, applicants can submit their applications at RPC will then choose 10 winners from submitted applications and the winning teams will be invited to attend a Masterclass facilitated by RPC and Placemaker Network in Valencia in May 2020, where they will learn how to bring their ideas to life.

The competition is being driven by the Urban Play Framework in the Reclaiming Play in Cities Report launched at the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi. Developed by Arup with the support of the LEGO Foundation and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), this new framework provides a holistic method to understand how various urban systems impact a child’s learning through play, to ultimately support the design and implementation of play-based interventions in cities. According to this framework, it is vital to assess the access, breadth and depth of play in cities according to four dimensions to ensure a play-friendly environment: the ability to Facilitate Play, the Environment and Infrastructure available for play, the Time and Opportunity allowed for play and the Supportive Ecosystem for Play.

Research shows that play helps foster children’s learning and holistic development, However, new challenges linked to rapid urbanisation and the resulting lifestyles changes, have impacted children’s ability to play and thrive in urban communities globally, with vulnerable children hit the hardest. This affects not just their childhood but the rest of their adult lives.

“With the Playful City Challenge, the Real Play Coalition seeks to incorporate the evidence on learning through play principles in our cities’ design, which will foster skills building and ultimately enable our children to contribute to a more complex and changing world, while also building more enjoyable environments for everyone. In many places, urban development has reduced the access to spaces for play: community spaces, family-friendly parks and play areas, at the same time neglecting the need for social support and the breadth of services needed to adapt sustainable forms of development,” said Bo Stjerne Thomsen, Chair of Learning Through Play at The LEGO Foundation.

“We want to be a part of creating a movement that prioritises the importance of play and sparks the energy for every child’s development and learning. We know that to survive, thrive and meet the challenges of tomorrow, children need more play today. The skills they will need, the people they will become and the world they are a part of creating together, will be shaped by it”, said Jesper Brodin, CEO Ingka Group.

“By 2050 around 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. With most of these people being under age of 18, children’s futures will be increasingly be shaped by urban development. The choices we make today will be crucial in ensuring children can reach their full potential and lead healthy lives. Currently, there is a limited base of evidence on the state of play in cities, particularly on the built environment’s role in access to play. Arup’s Urban Play Framework aims to understand the complexity of play in cities and support the design of play-based interventions,” said Sara Candiracci, Inclusive and Resilient Cities Lead, at Arup.


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