PlayBoard NI, the lead organisation for the development of children and young people’s play, joined youth workers and young leaders at a celebratory event in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast on Wednesday evening.

The event reflected on, acknowledged, and celebrated the achievements of PlayBoard’s Youth@Play programme and its participants, as it draws to a close. Funded by the Department of Education through the Education Authority, the pilot programme was developed in response to a number of key drivers and indicators at policy and operational levels. The aim of the programme was to build on the capacity of youth workers and the young leaders to facilitate play in youth settings for their younger members.

The programme focused on supporting these youth workers and their young leaders through a range of accredited training and play-based approaches to better meet the needs of the children and young people attending their setting. Over a two-year period, 30 youth settings in Belfast, Armagh, Craigavon and Banbridge participated in the programme, with over 100 participants achieving their OCN NI accredited qualification in playwork.

Congratulating participants, Jacqueline O’Loughlin, Chief Executive, PlayBoard said:

“Youth@Play is founded on the recognition that play is the most effective way to engage with children and young people aged 9 to 13 years within youth settings. With more children and young people of that age range now attending settings, Youth@Play helped to enhance the play on offer for them.

I would like to congratulate everyone who took part in Youth@Play over the past two years, and all those who completed their playwork qualification. We were delighted to see the commitment of the youth workers and the senior club members to making play happen in their clubs, and the great impact the programme has made on the young people’s play.”

Paul Deighan, Head of Regional Youth Services, Education Authority said:

“Play for children and young people is critical not only to provide a fun experience through engagement with youth services but teaches us so much more, such as problem solving and creative thinking. In addition, the essential health and well-being benefits through engagement in play help support our children and young people to develop resilience and positive relationships with others.

I would like to extend my thanks to the PlayBoard team in developing this programme and congratulate the young people and leaders on their achievements.”

Commenting on the programme, Paddy McKenna Gallagher, Senior Youth Worker, Youth Service said:

“Staff are actually realising the purpose behind what they do. Playwork has been missing from our curriculum and the work we do with young people. It has given extra motivation, and a reminder of why they wanted to work with children in the first place.”

Feedback from programme participants has been very encouraging with the youth workers commenting:

  • “There is a connection between play and youth work … play is so important, in not just children’s lives, but all age groups.”
  • “It has given us inspiration to work with the young people. Using the PlayBoard methods has been great, the young people are really enjoying themselves.”
  • “The training has given me a new perspective to think outside the box and to use play resources that I wouldn’t usually think of using.”
  • “The thing that came out of the training for me was free play, for young people to be creative and imaginative without us maybe interfering with a structured programme.”

Read more on celebrating Youth@Play – a reflection.

PlayBoard’s Youth@Play team