The Sunday Post (Inverness)

Return to new normality can be child’s play


- How do we recover from the pandemic?

That’s the question plaguing politician­s, business owners and community leaders alike as we slowly emerge from lockdown and, unfortunat­ely, there are no easy answers. Every area of our lives has been affected, from work and school to healthcare and leisure – it really has been an unpreceden­ted 12 months – so rebuilding is going to take time.

But, like most things in life, the first step will involve money and investment, and the government has already started outlining how it plans to help.

Lots of different programmes and projects have been announced, but the one that really caught my eye was the Scottish Government’s “Summer of Play” initiative, which focuses on encouragin­g children, young people and families to make use of their local outdoor parks, playground­s and sports centres.

The initiative is backed by £20 million in funding, which will boost children’s access to activities, and I think it’s absolutely key for addressing the impact the coronaviru­s crisis has had on the younger generation. Separated from friends and learning from home, our children really have faced dramatic changes to their everyday lives, which has affected their mental and physical health. So, we need to put their wellbeing at the heart of what we do next.

One of the few positives to come out of this terrible year has been the increased amount of time we’ve all spent outdoors, enjoying fresh air and exercise, so it makes sense to build on that. If you want to retain any level of interest, encouragin­g families to explore nature and get active, we need to make sure our outdoor spaces are clean, welcoming and accessible for all – otherwise, when other options reopen, it will be all too easy to go back to our sedentary and indoor ways. Allocating money to improve access to activities over the summer is a fantastic start, but we could go one step further. We had Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme last summer, so why not try something like Play Out to Help Out? Every parent knows how expensive after school classes and summer sports camps can be, so let’s make it more affordable for all by introducin­g free activities, equipment and even vouchers for families to come along and try a new active hobby over the next few months. Not only will that provide support for the local clubs, community centres and sports teams that have struggled during the pandemic, but it will also introduce both children and adults to new, fun pastimes they can do together.

It’s all about building the foundation­s for change. A one-off tennis lesson or game of football might spark instant passion, but it could really thrive for the long term if the whole family gets involved. So why not show mums, dads, grannies, grandpas and children some activities they can do together at home? After all, inter-generation­al play and

bonding has been one of the best aspects of being cooped up together during lockdown, so why not encourage that to continue? Empowering parents and embedding exercise into everyday life is key for ensuring the next generation is happier and healthier. So, let’s start now.

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Actor Thandiwe Newton in Los Angeles a year ago
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