Project addresses conflict through child’s play in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s chief body for developing children and young people’s play opportunities, has published a new animation film intended to help both professionals and young people.

OUR Play, OUR Journey, OUR Generation is the work of PlayBoard NI, and it highlights the importance of play for everyone, and its function in bringing people together and building bridges.

The film, which follows the fortunes of Archie Bear, explains how PlayBoard NI came about to promote play at a time of conflict in Northern Ireland, and then how the impact of the conflict on youngsters was addressed through the OUR Generation project.

Playboard said that the programme had already had a ‘significant impact’ on communities across the Belfast and Derry/Londonderry areas after being introduced into primary schools and childcare settings. More than 700 children have taken part in innovative play sessions under the OUR Generation themes, managed by almost 300 professionals engaged in play training.

‘We hope this animation will be an enduring legacy of the project’

Alan Herron, Chief Executive of PlayBoard Chief Executive, said: “Over the past three years, through a play-based approach, PlayBoard has supported children’s mental health and well-being, building resilience, and enabling them to better manage their emotions.

“We hope this new animation will be an enduring legacy of the project. The level of participation in the programme and the positive feedback we have received clearly illustrates the need and appetite for our play-based programmes. 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.”

Catherine Forte is a teacher at St Vincent de Paul Primary School in Belfast, one of those to benefit from the programme. She said that engaging in practitioner training had given them a chance to reflect on their own practices, and how many opportunities they were really giving children to play, particularly in the older years.

“From working with PlayBoard I changed the way I did play in my class, enabling the children to have an opportunity to play which had a positive impact all round, improving punctuality, improving attendance, and enabling the children to form positive relationships again after a long time home schooling during the pandemic. It had a positive impact all round, on what I did in the classroom, and the children’s experiences.

‘A positive impact all round’

“From being involved in the PlayBoard sessions we have also made moves to make our Shared Education lessons more play-based, to focus more on our break times and lunch times together and the opportunities that our children have to play and to build relationships and friendships,” added Catherine.

OUR Generation receives funding from the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, which itself is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The aim here is build positive relations and emotional resilience in communities impacted by four decades of the Troubles/Conflict across the whole island of Ireland. It has been match-funded by The Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.

Author: Simon Weedy

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