“We want more playgrounds!”, Children protest in Amsterdam to reclaim outdoor spaces

Published: 7 July 2024

Written by Michela Grasso, Laura Rothman

“In my playground I want a big space to play football, a 300 meters tall zip line and a swimming pool”, says Layvin, 8 years old, while standing fiercely in front of the Amsterdam municipality offices in Waterlooplein. Together with around 40 other children, all wearing yellow t-shirts with bright green lettering saying “Wij Zijn Woest” (We are Woest), Layvin is protesting against the shrinking size and numbers of playgrounds in Amsterdam. The protest was organized by Woest, a sport and recreation association for children based in the Dutch capital , on the 4th of July.

Children protesting in-Amsterdam for more outdoor spaces
Children protesting in-Amsterdam for more outdoor spaces

“Growing up in Amsterdam, I always had a lot of space to play, we would stay out in the street until it would get dark”, says Tim, a Woest employee and one of the protest organizers, “Nowadays, children are not used to playing outside as much, playgrounds are shrinking and have been substituted by parking spots and the road is more dangerous. Today, we are here with the kids to make some noise, to show that their needs matter”.

According to Jantje Beton foundation, in 2024 there are 400,000 children between 6 and 12 years old in the Netherlands who never play outside. Research also shows that parents see the lack of social safety and the lack of playgrounds as one of the biggest obstacles to playing outside.

The street, which was once a multifunctional space, is now limited to accommodating the needs of cars, which creates an unsafe environment for outdoor playing. This is why, outside of the Stopera, at the unison chant of “Wethouder! Wethouder!” (Alderman! Alderman!), the children welcome the arrival of Sofyan Mbarki, alderman of sport and outdoor activities.

After shaking the children’s hands and carefully inspecting their chalk drawings of ideal city spaces, the alderman is handed a microphone and announces that he will be glad to inspect playgrounds with some of the children in the upcoming months, to really understand the current situation through their eyes. “I am so glad to have brought my children here” says the dad of two girls who is cheering them on, “as a parent, I believe it is important to expose children to their right to protest. And of all the protests I could think of bringing my daughters to, this is the best”.

The protest leaves behind a more colorful Stopera, the ground has been covered by chalk drawings of ideal playgrounds, showing that all it takes to transform a gray strip of concrete into an improvised play area, is a bit of creativity.

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