Involving children and young people
Children and young people experience their
neighbourhoods in very different ways to adults.
As a community leader, when you decide that you want to improve
local children's play facilities, do you think of yourself as the
expert? Do you think you know the best place to put the
facility?Have you picked your favourite items from the catalogues,
given an order to a play company sales person, or even commissioned
several designs and picked the one you think brightest and best? Of
course, there will always be new products on the market that you
want to try out, and that's fine, but what about actually bringing
local children into the discusssion?
Through playing outdoors, children may know a lot more
about the neighbourhood and the best places to play than many older
people. They are also likely to have strong views on local play
provision, including play areas near to where they live.
The involvement of children and young people in decision-making
about local play provision and how neighbourhoods are designed and
developed is essential to create more child-friendly communities,
and in line with the government's vision of community involvement
in the 'Big Society'.
Children and young people have a right to express their views
about decisions that affect their lives (as set out in the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child). Children should be
consulted about local play provision.
Participation is the word used to describe
the active involvement of children and young people in making
decisions about the services they use or those that impact on their
lives. This is not just about consultation – a quick questionnaire
– but about genuinely involving children and young people in the
decision-making process and giving them feedback on how their
contribution has made a difference. Why not invite a few young
representatives to sit in when you are discussing the
specification, the location and the budget in your meeting? Let
them have their say but don't be afraid to challenge them too. Gain
a broad consensus and the children will develop a sense of
ownership much earlier in the programme.
Active participation by children and young people should
be sought, and respected. It often leads to:
- An increased understanding of how children and young people use
play spaces and how they want to use the environment for play
- More informed decisions and improvements in local play
provision and the design of play spaces
- Better, more exciting places to play that children want to
- A greater sense of ownership by children and young people of
local play facilities
- Greater respect from children and young people for adults who
listen to their views, and from adults towards children about
Ways to involve children and young people, and resources to
There is no single technique or method for
involving children and young people, different approaches should be
used to suit different ages, interests and abilities.
Genuine participation requires a commitment from adults to the
process and a willingness to listen and learn from children and
The key is to provide space and time for children to think
through ideas and help them present their views. Finding the right
way for your project will require discussion and often a healthy
dose of trial and error. Participation should not be a chore but
something that can give life and vitality to your project.
Children and young people should want to be involved. This means
what you do should be interesting and fun. Using a variety of
creative techniques and media will help children express their
views. This can include photography, video, storytelling, role-play
or poetry. You will need to make time at more formal meetings for
children to present their ideas and support them when they go to
meet other people e.g. councillors, officers and representatives of
other organisations. This means talking to adults about what you
expect and asking them how they will give feedback.
Participation Works has developed briefings and guidance showing
how children and young people can be involved in a range of
decisions from recruitment of staff, to fundraising, to evaluating
the effectiveness of the projects and services they use. You will
also find national charities working locally, for example:
Barnardos,the Children’s Society, and Action for Children have a
range of experience and will be able to advise you about
Your local schools, children’s centre, youth club and adventure
playground may be able to help. It may be useful to involve your
local youth parliament and every local authority should have a
participation officer who may be able to help.
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Tools and information
Fair Play: A Consultation on the Play Strategy
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A national consultation by the previous government investigating the views of children, parents and other stakeholders about the importance of communities supporting play and who should be involved.
A consortium of six children’s agencies that provides information and advice to enable organisations to effectively involve children and young people in the development, delivery and evaluation of services that affect their lives.
Participation Works Network for England
This free network provides opportunities for adults for whom participation is part of their daily work, to network, share new ideas and learn more about participation.