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The event showcased the impact of the Spaces to Be programme that has been delivered in primary schools and childcare settings within Urban Village Areas in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.
Over the past three years, through a play-based approach, the programme has supported children’s mental health and well-being, building resilience, and enabling them to better manage their emotions. The programme has also supported children to become diverse thinkers by being accepting and inclusive of other communities and cultures.
PlayBoard NI also launched a new animation entitled OUR Generation, OUR PLAY, OUR Legacy, which follows Archie Bear as he explains how important play is for children and adults, and how it can help build resilience and bridge divisions, addressing the impact of conflict in Northern Ireland.
Alan Herron, Chief Executive of PlayBoard NI said that the level of participation in the programme and the positive feedback PlayBoard had received showed the need and appetite for play-based programmes. He said:
“PlayBoard’s Spaces to Be programme has made a significant impact throughout its delivery as part of the EU PEACE IV funded OUR Generation project. Over 700 children have enjoyed fun and innovative play sessions, almost 300 practitioners have engaged in our play training, and over 150 parents attended interactive information sessions.”
He added: “Following the challenges of the past three years with the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, and the current cost of living crisis, quality play opportunities are more important than ever for boosting children and young people’s mental health and well-being, as well as their physical health and skills development.”
Stephen Torney, a teacher at Fountain Primary School in Derry/Londonderry, explained how play has changed in the school following PlayBoard’s involvement. He said:
“OUR Generation has allowed us to see the benefits of play. The programme has changed my approach to unstructured play. I always thought everything had to be planned out but the work with PlayBoard has allowed us to see that actually giving children the freedom to do what they choose means that they enjoy the play more. One of the key points for me was letting the children do what they want to do and as long as they’re safe, they’ll be enjoying their play.”