Ten new pods, which are secure storage units for play equipment, are now in place throughout the borough alongside 20 volunteer ‘Play Rangers’ who have received training in the promotion of play as an essential part of children and young people’s lives.

The training was delivered as part of the innovative Community Play Rangers programme rolled out by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in partnership with PlayBoard NI and funded by the Public Health Agency.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Maureen Morrow, said:

“During the summer months volunteers from communities across the borough received training from PlayBoard NI experts and successfully qualified as Play Rangers. All volunteers who completed the training then received a Play Pod for use in their community.

“A play pod takes the form of a secure storage unit filled with play equipment and loose parts that offers outdoor play opportunities for local children all year round. I am delighted that there are now 20 Play Rangers and 10 Play Pods in place across the borough.

“We all know play is critical to children and young people’s lives, supporting the development of skills and abilities that enhance social, physical and emotional wellbeing. Play Pods and Play Rangers are reflective of best practice in play; that is, enabling children to extend their own play experience, providing a rich play environment, creating innovative play opportunities and building community relationships.

“The Play Rangers programme is a great example of community planning in action, and how Council continue to support local communities to take ownership of their green spaces.”

Alan Herron, PlayBoard NI’s Director of Service Delivery and Development, said:

“The volunteers in Mid and East Antrim were very committed to learning all about play in their community and how they can best facilitate this. And what a bonus for communities to receive a play pod for their community! We were delighted to support Council with this fantastic initiative.

“Even as winter sets in, it is important to encourage children to play outdoors. It helps them gain a better understanding of the world around them, allows them to interact with the wider community and opens up a range of essential learning skills and development opportunities.”

Maurice Meehan, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement (Northern), with the Public Health Agency, said:

“The foundations for a healthy life are heavily influenced by what happens in the first few years. This new initiative aims to encourage healthy habits at a young age, including the importance of physical play and movement.

“The investment in expertise and play resources will undoubtedly help to promote the health benefits of active play and healthy lifestyles for young children and their families.”

Alan Brennan, Play Ranger with Sunnylands and Woodburn Community Development Group, said:

“We were really pleased to be involved in the Community Play Rangers training and take ownership of a Play Pod. We have ours situated in the heart of the community and are looking forward to making use of the equipment, encouraging families to get out and play and make use of the green space locally. This will be a great way to engage kids, get them active and keep them off the streets.”

For further information email play@midandeastantrim.gov.uk