Play time in one East Lothian village has just become a lot more colourful!

A new rainbow-coloured path has been installed in Whitecraig play area following a request from local school pupils. The children were taking part in a Queen Margaret University research project ‘Creating a Play-Friendly Community with Children in Whitecraig’ led by occupational science PhD student Silvia Veiga-Seijo. As part of the multidisciplinary project, children shared what they thought of their play spaces and what they’d like to see through videos, in song, and by presenting at QMU and Scottish Parliament. Their views on the importance of play, access and future facilities were central to the research project’s findings and are reflected in the works carried out in Whitecraig play area.

The children identified improvements they would like to see in their local play area in Whitecraig Park including a ‘rainbow path’ to brighten the play space. In response, East Lothian Council’s Amenity Services Play Squad installed a fully accessible, multi-coloured rubber surfaced path leading into and through the play area, connecting to the basket swing and toddler multi-play unit. In addition to bringing bright colours to the play area as the children requested, the new surfacing has also improved accessibility to these play items for all abilities.

Accessible and inclusive play

The play area improvements were funded through the Scottish Government’s Play Parks Renewal monies. They take account of feedback received through the council’s recent East Lothian Play Sufficiency Assessment around the need for accessibility and inclusion in formal play areas maintained by the authority.

Cabinet member for Community Wellbeing Councillor Colin McGinn visited the play area to meet children and see the path and wider improvements. He said: “We were delighted to be able to deliver this new rainbow path in response to the request from the local children in Whitecraig. Their vision was spot on – it looks fantastic and I’m sure will offer lots of scope for imaginative play. We also took this opportunity to improve accessibility into the play area, which enables children in buggies, wheelchairs or those who use a mobility aid to reach more of the play items.

“We are continuing to explore funding opportunities for further enhancements to this play area and others in the county so that all children have a fun and accessible space to play in.”

Supportive and cohesive communities

Elvin Williams, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Queen Margaret University, said: “Play is a fundamental right for every child in their everyday lives, and it’s important for the child, as well as for the life of a community. Studies show that when children play in the community, it can make a positive contribution to the development of supportive, healthy and cohesive communities. Schools serve as microcosms of children’s communities, providing opportunities and safe spaces for play, both during school and after school, facilitating holistic development and wellbeing. In Silvia’s research with the children of Whitecraig, she uncovered that play is an issue of social and occupational justice.

“Her research had a child rights-based approach, so, children led the process of the project and made decisions jointly with Silvia. They are experts in their own play and it’s great to see how being part of the research project has empowered the children to lead on change and put their creative ideas into practice in their community. Being part of Silvia’s research project has been transformational for many of the children, and it must be very rewarding for them and members of the community to see the rainbow path become a central focus to the children’s play area.”

Shirley Neill, chair of East Lothian Play Association, said "It's wonderful to see the children playing on the rainbow path. The brightly coloured path is a brilliant idea they came up with themselves to improve their local play area. It's also a great example of how important it is to ask children for their views and ideas, as the rainbow path symbolises their wish that the play area should be a welcoming, friendly place for everyone. We've been so impressed by the children in the Play-friendly Whitecraig project - they have really led the way."

Did you know? 

Children’s right to rest, relax and play is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 31). Article 12 states that every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. Find out more about UNCRC from Unicef's website.

Published: Wednesday, 22nd May 2024