Celebration event to mark Play Matters project

Date published: 10 September 2019

The importance of play for children’s health and wellbeing was highlighted at an event to mark the success of the Play Matters project.

Play Matters celebratory event
Attending the Play Matters celebratory event were (l-r) June Wilkinson, Department of Education; MIchael McBride, Chief Medical Officer; Jacqueline O'Loughlin, Playboard NI and Angela Stallard, Project Manager.

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.”

 Working in partnership with Playboard NI (the lead agency for the development and promotion of play) play workshops and play awareness sessions have been delivered 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."

 Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride speaking at the celebration event 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.”

Notes to editors: 

Notes to editors:

  1. The draft Children and Young People’s Strategy was approved by the Northern Ireland (NI) Executive in December 2016. The enjoyment of Play and Leisure is one of the eight key outcomes included in the draft Strategy.
  2. The Play Matters project is being delivered through the Children and Young People’s Strategy Team in the Department of Education.  Playboard NI were awarded the contract to deliver two elements of the project – Play for Parents Programme & Play Shaper Programme.
  3. The Play Matters project has three key elements.
    1. Play for Parents Programme aims to help parents understand the importance of play for their child and to give them the skills and confidence to meaningfully play with their children.
    2. Play Shaper Programme designed to support professional staff who plan, design, build and manage public spaces and communities; through developing an increased understanding of the importance of play and leisure with a view to creating and maintaining play-friendly communities.
    3. Play Messaging Campaign aimed at raising an awareness of the importance of play for children’s overall health and wellbeing including a Play Matters TV campaign and social media.
  4. The Play Matters celebratory event is being held in the Clandeboye Estate. Presentations from programme participants will showcase the key elements of the Play Matters project and an innovative prison pilot which took place with parents at Maghaberry and Hydebank prisons.
  5. Follow us on Twitter @Education_NI
  6. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Telephone: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer number 028 9037 8110.



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