OUR Generation

Spaces To Be

Spaces to Be is a unique programme, delivered by PlayBoard, advocating the use of play as a means of supporting the development of childhood resilience, and as a mechanism for positively addressing differences.

  • Spaces to Be is an innovative and interactive programme comprising training for practitioners and parents, and play sessions for children.

  • Spaces to Be recognises that learning is more effective when it is enjoyed.

  • Promoting the power of play and its contribution to positive mental health and resilience.


By the end of their journey through the Spaces to Be programme, we hope that children become Play Champions by:

  • Playing more than ever
  • Choosing outdoor play over screen play
  • Accepting people despite perceived differences
  • Promoting equality
  • Regulating their own emotions
  • Managing their own risks
  • Making independent decisions
  • Continuing to build upon their own level of resilience.

By the end of their journey through the Spaces to Be programme, we hope that the adults that surround the children become Play Champions by:

  • Prioritising time for play – education is important but so is play
  • Encouraging outdoor play – there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing
  • Allowing children to be messy – the mess washes off but the memories and learning lasts forever
  • Allowing children to be loud – more noise, more fun
  • Allowing children to play freely – playing when they want to, how they want to and choosing when they want to stop
  • Thinking benefit over risk – reflecting on their own childhood and the thrills and skills risk-taking offered
  • Empowering our children with the time, space and permission to play.

Spaces To Be

Spaces to Be focuses on the critical role of play as a means of supporting both the development of childhood resilience, and as a mechanism for positively addressing differences at individual, familial and cross-community level.

Spaces to Be is a unique project as it recognises that learning is more effective and is more likely to be embedded into beliefs and approaches, for both children and adults, when they enjoy it. Throughout delivery of the programme, PlayBoard has successfully used play to effectively address hard hitting and complex topics with children, parents and practitioners. This has made learning accessible to children and less intense for the participants taking part in the training.

Using a holistic approach, Spaces to Be recognises that the adults that surround our children play a significant role in supporting their mental health and resilience.

It is also integral that we have a holistic approach to addressing difference and acceptance to ensure that the key messages of the programme are consistent in all aspects of a child’s life.

It is only with this approach that we can work towards systematic change to ensure a better future for our children.

Spaces To Be Participants

  • Children (aged four to 11 years), parents and practitioners within participating settings.

  • School Age Childcare settings, community groups, and schools working with children aged four to 11 years.

  • Settings within the Urban Village areas (North, South, East and West Belfast, and Derry/Londonderry). Settings outside the Urban Village areas with children attending from within the areas, are also eligible to participate in the programme.


Practitioners’ Training

  • Session 1 – CPD opportunity for a full staff team.
    Topics covered include: the role of play in supporting holistic development with a focus on well-being and resilience; resilience and self-care tools; childhood adversities and trauma and responding to stress.

  • Session 2 – CPD opportunity for a full staff team.
    Topics covered include: the playwork approach; the Playwork Principles; acceptance and diversity; dynamic risk assessment; and mindfulness.

  • Session 3 reflective workshop for practitioners who took part in the full programme (including children’s sessions) identifying learning and key messages to implement into practice. Opportunities to develop cross community work.


Children’s Play Sessions

PlayBoard facilitate play sessions for children aged four to 11 years within their setting. Practitioners already working with the children are invited to attend sessions to gain first-hand experience of implementing the theory learnt during the practitioner training.

The play sessions include a range of practical and playful exercises for children to support them to build characteristics closely associated with high levels of resilience, support their positive mental health and as a mechanism for positively addressing differences. These complex issues are explored in an indirect and playful way by providing an exciting and free-flowing play environment, filled with a range of fun and exciting invitations to play.

We believe that when children are provided the TIME, SPACE and PERMISSION to play, they will explore and learn in a way that best suit their needs and interests, helping them to reach their full potential.

Sessions are tailored to suit the individual needs of each setting, identified during the practitioner training to ensure the programme is inclusive and accessible to all.

Topics covered include: individuality and difference; emotional intelligence and resilience; community; and the power of Play Champions!


Parents’ Workshop

Promoting the power of play within the home and its contribution to positive mental health and resilience.

Delivered through stay and play sessions or playful and interactive workshops, available online or face-to-face.

Topics covered include: loose parts and free play, resilience, self-care tools, childhood adversities, and transgenerational trauma.


  • Over 1,100 children and young people engaged (2020-23)

  • 500+ practitioners participated

  • 270+ parents participated

  • 4 fun cross-community events delivered

  • 3 informative shared-learning seminars organised



“Using the Coke and Mentos to show what could happen if you keep your emotions inside was a great way to visualise it for the children. A wonderful session that flowed very good, right from the introduction to making the stress balls to the emotions painting table, and finally to the children getting their own wee emotions toolkit at the end – loved this session.”

Teacher, Ligoneil Primary School

“From having those difficult conversations during the programme, the children’s conversations surrounding difference have changed, particularly around communities, for example, children are more open and accepting of other communities. I’ve noticed it when they drive through areas such as the Shankill Road to go swimming etc.”

“The programme was not only a safe space for children, but also for staff. I was able to test the playwork approach and stand back to see the true benefits of play. When I reflect on my previous practice although I thought it was child-led, I now know it wasn’t. Having had the first-hand experience of seeing the benefits of free play, I will rethink my own planning moving forward and will try to ensure I give children more freedom and choice where possible.”

Teacher, Sacred Heart Primary School

“Staff were hesitant to have a play session in the morning as this is core learning time, in the afternoons children are usually a bit more unsettled. Staff were also apprehensive about children coming back hyper after the play sessions and how that would impact their learning. However, staff noted that children actually came back more settled after the play sessions and engaged really well with their learning activities.”

Teacher, Long Tower Primary School

“Really enjoyed the 7Cs of resilience, I had never heard of it before and am always looking for new ideas to build children’s resilience. I found the celebrity comparisons good too, this would be really good for the children to see that their role models have went through difficulties.”

Teacher, Mercy Primary School



“I think that it’s great that you are working with children in Derry, offering them opportunities to mix with others in different communities. These are things that I never had the chance to do as a child, in fact I was told I wasn’t allowed to play with children from the Fountain area.”

“I can’t wait to take the pack home and learn more about the theory behind play and just why it is so crucial for our children”.

“Play isn’t just good for my baby it’s good for me too”.

 Parents, webinar



“Everyone is different but we are all people and we are all nice people.”

Child, Footprints Women’s Centre

“Sometimes we can feel loads of different emotions at once, this is what I’ve painted. Every colour is a different emotion and sometimes they get all mixed up.”

Child, Scoil An Droichead

Contact Us

If you would like further information on the project E: info@playboard.org