†‘Last Child in the Street’ is the name of the symposium that will take place on Thursday 9 June at the Théâtre de Craqueling. This event in Westerpark is a call for help from various sectors to draw attention to the importance of playing outside† It seems that the number of children playing has decreased significantly in recent years† The driving force behind this seminar is Martin Hope, Director of Het Woeste Westen Nature Course. He saw the twelfth anniversary of the stadium as a good reason to organize this event.
by Tessa van der Meg
Fifteen years ago, Martin Hope came across the field at Westerpark by chance. “At the time, it was already a fairly normal playing field, were it not for the fact that everything there would have been shattered. However, the intentions were good and it had real potential.” The fact that he saw the potential is due in part to his experience with nature and environmental education. He decided to take action and wrote to the municipality that this field would be a fine natural field. The municipality picked up his idea, and three years later he stood as manager at the opening of the current Woeste Westen on Overbrakerpad.
“It went really well after that,” Martin says. “There was a lot of word-of-mouth compliments. Then I heard folks here calling, ‘You have to come here now, you don’t know what you’re going through!” Kids really go wild here and parents see that too. When you play with your child as a parent, you You tend to quickly draw your line if it takes too long or there is no logic in it. But if you let the children play – children among themselves without the eyes of adults – it would be in a completely different order.”
play in danger
According to Martin, kids automatically look for challenges. Nowadays you call it ‘playing in danger’. This is in children. They face challenges, look for dangers, climb to a place where they are not supposed to be, and then get kicked out again by the parents. Here too you hear a lot: ‘Attention, watch out’ ‘Don’t do that.’ I think it was much less. Parents let their children go less and less, treat them more carefully and protect them more and more.”
a day in their life
The site is free to access to allow as many children as possible to play. Schools regularly ask Martin for a fully detailed itinerary for a school trip. Often comes up with a ‘better plan’. “Just let them play! Then we bake a sandwich for half an hour at noon as the only activity. I promise these kids will have the most fun time of their lives. Believe me: Nothing went wrong. These kids are busy all day. And then these parents and teachers look at them like ‘What’s going on here?’” What is this? This boy always bullies everyone and is now helping someone, this other person dares nothing and is now standing on a raft in the water! ” †
He emphasizes again that at Woeste Westen they “really enjoy playing outside” and “playing in nature”. This gives children more opportunities and challenges than on the street or on a regular playground. Playgrounds are often boring for them, parents find it too dangerous on the street and there is not much left to do. In addition, phone and computer games also attract children to stay indoors.”
important for development
According to him, children and toys belong together. In addition, free play is “extremely important to their development”. This is also why he finds it a shame that the number of children playing in the street is decreasing. Research by Jantje Beton shows that 15% of children never play outside again. In large cities, this percentage is as high as 30 percent. A Belgian study showed that between 1983 and 2008 there were 50% fewer children on the streets in some neighborhoods than in the previous years and 37% fewer children in the following eleven years. “If this trend continues, we will hardly have any children playing on the street in twenty years.”
However, children still love to come to Het Woeste Westen. “Sometimes I call it a play reserve for the last kids playing free. Parents think it’s still safe enough here and the kids can go wild here.” Martin hopes to create more awareness through the Last Child on the Street symposium. “Some think the name sounds a bit exciting, but ask for help. Of course I can’t change the world on my own, but I would like to contribute to it.” Some tickets are still available via this website.