February 24, 2024

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App designer mum says lockdown showed playgrounds ‘essential’

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

Emily Smithson and her daughters

image copyrightEmily Smithson

image captionMs Smithson designed the app after deciding to visit all the playgrounds in the city with her daughters

A mother who wants families to make more of local playgrounds has launched an app aimed at making it easier.

Emily Smithson, from Bristol, said the importance of playgrounds for children and parents had been underlined during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said she was frustrated no list of local play sites existed.

Ms Smithson, 42, spent two years learning programming skills to design the free interactive app and game, which features play areas in her city.

Playgrounds across England closed in March as part of the first wave of restrictions imposed to tackle the spread of the coronavirus in March.

Many remained locked for months, even when parks around them became popular with people using them for their one permitted period of daily exercise, before the government

allowed them to reopen in July.

image copyrightPA Media

image captionPlaygrounds across England were closed from March to July as part of the lockdown measures

Ms Smithson said it would be “devastating” if they were closed again during a second lockdown.

She said it was

horrible to walk past and see them empty” during the lockdown “especially when the weather was so beautiful”.

She added that while play areas were “essential” for children, they also played “such an important role” for adults.

“Just going to your local [playground] and meeting up with other parents… it’s one thing that keeps you completely sane.”

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMs Smithson says play areas are “essential” for children

The former maths teacher designed the Bristol Playgrounds app after deciding to visit all the playgrounds in the city with her daughters.

“At the time there was a Bristol City Council webpage which had a list… but they decided to stop funding it and the website went down.

“It became quite hard to find them. There was no comprehensive list.”

She said her app was part guide and part game and featured “the very best playgrounds” .

“There’s not much else you can do at the moment with young children – soft play areas are not really open, and lots of places you have to book ages ahead.

“And lots of people are really constrained by money, so having something free and local is brilliant.

“I can totally understand why the government would need to shut them down [if another lockdown happens], but it’s so sad to see them lying empty.

“They offer such an important opportunity to the children.

They offer a kind of freedom – the opposite to lockdown.”

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