The importance of play for children’s health and well-being has been highlighted at an event to mark the success of the Play Matters project.

The Play Matters initiative, which is funded through the Delivering Social Change – Early Intervention Transformation Programme (EITP), was taken forward by the Department of Education’s Children and Young People Strategy team.

The Play Matters project comprises three key elements which focus on helping parents, families, and professionals to understand the importance of freely chosen, unstructured play for children and young people.  A Play Messaging Campaign was also developed to help raise awareness of the need to ensure play is a key part of a child’s life.

Angela Stallard, Project Manager at the Department of Education said: “One of the best ways for children to stay both physically and mentally healthy is through access to a variety of unstructured play opportunities.  Play Matters promotes the concept of play which is freely chosen and self-directed by children.

“Today’s event at the Clandeboye Estate aims to celebrate the success of the Play Matters project and recognise the work of all involved.”

PlayBoard NI worked in partnership with the Department of Education to deliver play workshops and play awareness sessions to a range of professionals, parents and carers.

Jacqueline O’Loughlin, Chief Executive, PlayBoard NI said:  “Play is one of the most important things children need to help them grow, develop and be happy. It has been proven to improve physical and mental health, increase self-confidence, build resilience, help develop social skills and much more.

“The Play Matters initiative has been transformative and PlayBoard has been delighted to work with the Department of Education and other partners to deliver workshops, training and play sessions to a wide range of individuals and organisations to effect real change for our children and young people.”

Also in attendance at the event was Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride who said: “Today’s event aims to celebrate the success of the Play Matters project and recognise the hard work of all those involved in delivering the programme to date.

Dr McBride continued: “I, along with my Chief Medical Officer counterparts, have just launched nationwide physical activity guidelines which recommends daily physical activity at all stages of our lives to guarantee not only good physical health but also positive mental health.  The guidelines also recognise that play provides the perfect opportunity to make being active fun and enjoyable.

“To date, PlayBoard NI has organised hundreds of workshops and awareness sessions for parents, foster carers and local council staff and I congratulate them on their dedication to making the Play Matters project such a success and in doing so ensuring that children have the best start in life.”

Read more information on the Play Matters project and download resources including briefing sheets such as playing outdoors and fun in the sun (https://www.playboard.org/what-we-do/play-matters-project/)