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Infographic showing some of the key findings in Oxfordshire Play Association's Evidence based report "Why Play is Important". Findings include that street play benefits: public health, builds communities, connects children to nature and their environment, promotes intergenerational relationships and let off steam - allowing for more intake of structured learning too. © Oxfordshire Play Association

Text version of the infographic on why play is important is available here.


Why is Play Important? This was the question at the heart of the 2021/22 collaborative research project between Oxfordshire Play Association (OPA), the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University. The infographic above summarises the key findings of the resulting report, published in July 2022. 

The first edition of 'Why is Play Important in Oxfordshire' is aimed at influencing local decision-makers and those who make funding decisions, to demonstrate the importance of play for the physical and mental wellbeing of children and young people in Oxfordshire.

There is a lot of evidence and research around play, on a national and regional basis, but nothing has ever been produced exclusively with Oxfordshire needs and circumstances as its focus. Despite the overall affluence of the county there are several pockets of deprivation and the county also suffers from rural deprivation.

The project team now plan to produce a second edition that will be aimed at Oxfordshire's parents and carers.

Community-researcher collaboration

The collaboration between OPA and Oxford researchers was part of our ‘Science Together’ programme, aimed at bringing together researchers at both Universities with local community groups in and around the city, to address and respond to local needs, interests and perspectives. The idea of the programme is to put the Universities’ combined research skills at the disposal of communities, to tackle key challenges identified by grassroots community groups.

OPA was interested in partnering with researchers to help make a case for why play is important for the health and wellbeing of children, young people, their families and the wider community within Oxfordshire. Since 2008 and the onset of austerity and public sector cuts, funding for play in Oxfordshire has seen a significant fall, as it has not been a priority for dwindling Council budgets.

OPA wanted to gather evidence through a literature review, to make the case for the importance of play in Oxfordshire, and explore its value from a health and wellbeing perspective, not only for children and young people, but more widely across the community. The charity's aim was to produce a report and flyer that could be circulated to local stakeholders and, in particular, local councils to make the case for increasing funding for play throughout the county.

Initial workshops led to a collaboration of four researchers with diverse interests and experience partnering with Oxfordshire Play Association to produce the first report:

The project lead was Martin Gillett, Manager of the OPA.

With research assistance support from Oxford Brookes University's psychology graduate Fruzina Urban, together with facilitation support from the University of Oxford’s Science Together team - Polly Kerr (Primary Care), Oli Moore (Science Engagement Facilitator), Rachel Ashwanden (Science Engagement Officer) and Saskia O’Sullivan (Department of Chemistry) - this interdisciplinary team set about reviewing and synthesising recent evidence for the importance of play and relating it to the local context.

Their report on the importance of play brings together key arguments for the critical importance of investing in play and highlights the need for support across the county.

Find out more

For further information about this collaboration and the resulting report, contact Martin Gillett, Oxfordshire Play Association, at

To find out more about Oxfordshire Play Association and the amazing work they do please visit their website: or follow the organisation on social media:

Twitter @oxonplay

Facebook @OxfordshierPlayAssociationOpa

LinkedIn Oxfordshire Play Association