Play in times of hardship

Play in times of hardship

With the cost of living crisis impacting families across Northern Ireland, PlayBoard NI, the lead organisation for the development of children and young people’s play, has developed a new resource highlighting a range of low-cost play ideas.

PlayBoard’s guide highlights that play activity does not need to be expensive or involve costly toys and gadgets, but rather that there are many ‘free and found’ play opportunities that already exist within our homes, schools, childcare settings, and communities.

Play is central to children and young people’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. All children have a natural urge to play, and that need to play will remain, even during times of economic hardship. Indeed, during times of hardship being able to play is even more important as it supports children to develop their inner resources, building greater resilience to cope with life’s challenges and uncertainties.

Launching the new resource, Play in times of hardship, PlayBoard CEO Alan Herron said,

“As an organisation, PlayBoard recognises the extremely challenging and difficult circumstances many people are facing, and the financial pressures families in particular may be experiencing. PlayBoard has developed this new resource as a way of sharing practical play ideas and activities which don’t involve expensive toys or costly days out, and which can be enjoyed at home and in other settings, at little or no cost.

“The most developmentally beneficial and fun play activities often involve easily found and simple materials that we all have at home, in our gardens, or that can be found in nature. Playworkers call these types of materials ‘loose parts’, and through playing with loose parts children’s imaginations can flourish and their creativity bloom. A cardboard box can be transformed into a rocket ship or old sheets into a den. The possibilities are endless, offering not only fun and enjoyment but also supporting health and development.

“During these worrying times for many, we hope that our new resource will encourage parents and those who work with children to seek out more free and found play opportunities, and will offer reassurance of the important contribution they are making to children’s health, well-being and development through play.”

Pauline Martin, Manager of Fun 4U Club offering out of school care said,

“The cost of living rise is affecting everyone but this doesn't mean our children will miss out. Loose parts play is the answer! Loose parts allow free play which is free to resource and free from adult direction or instruction.

“Using resources such as bed sheets, old clothes, shoes, unwanted kitchen items and shop waste e.g. cardboard boxes, pallets, tubing and wrapping, allows children to thrive with the freedom of no instructions or rules, opening up their imagination and creativity.

“Loose parts play enables children to develop their self-confidence in so many ways allowing us as playworkers to encourage and support them.” 

Download Play in times of hardship at and follow PlayBoard on social media for low-cost play ideas.

Last updated 10 months ago