What are the opportunities for play for Ukrainian children aged 0 – 6 years living in accommodation centres in Galway City & County?

What are the opportunities for play for Ukrainian children aged 0 – 6 years living in accommodation centres in Galway City & County?


The aim is to identify the opportunities for play for Ukrainian children aged 0-6 years living in accommodations centres.


To explore current opportunities for Ukrainian children to play in accommodation centres.

To examine the determinants that impact Ukrainian children’s play in accommodation centres.

Dewey (1916), an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, stated that play is not just for fun; play can enhance children’s experience of natural learning and development. There are numerous definitions of play throughout literature, Kernan (2007, p.5) states that ‘there is one agreement among theorists from a range of disciplines, which is that play contributes significantly to children’s development’. Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget suggest that learning through play and having the space to play are integral to children’s well-being, learning, and development. Wood (2014) goes further to state that play is a basic human need as well as a basic human right.

The United Nations Children’s Rights Convention; Article 31 states that every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child, and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts, and promote and encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity (Children’s Rights Alliance, 2010). Children’s right to play may not be upheld in certain settings where space is limited. This is also the case for emergency accommodation shelters for families such as B&Bs, hotels and respite care homes.

In 2002, research published by Halpenny, Keogh and Gilligan looked at the perspectives of children, parents and professionals regarding their experiences of emergency accommodation. A direct quote from a 9-year-old child living in an emergency accommodation centre stated, ‘I don’t really play anymore…. I just lie on my bed and watch telly’ (p.363).

The lack of access to play facilities and educational resources for children is a significant theme in the literature on accommodation centres. Ogbu et al. (2014) underline the lack of play facilities for children in reception centres and that children are sometimes exposed to ‘risky’ adult behaviour. This could render asylum seeking accommodation centres as precarious or risky spaces for children and families.

Fanning and Veale’s (2004) qualitative study of asylum seekers reveals that parents in accommodation centres are frequently unable to afford toys and outings for children’s special occasions, including birthdays and holidays. Comparably, research by the Irish Refugee Council (2001) also found that many children living in accommodation centres lack the space to play and study, which has adverse consequences for their social and cognitive development. Significantly, Arnold (2012, p. 24) illustrates how living conditions of children and families in accommodation centres impact negatively on children’s educational attainments, their personal and social development.

Mooney (2015) conducted research on children growing up in accommodation centres in Ireland. The living conditions of children living in those types of settings are similar to those for children living in emergency accommodation. In the HomeWorks Study in 2018, children reported feeling lonely as they could not play outside when the weather was poor and could not invite friends over to their room in the accommodation centre. It is the policy in many centres not to let visitors into people’s rooms to play, which Mooney (2015) describes as a barrier to integration and development for children.

Other studies in relation to play and asylum seekers, by Ní Shé (2007) stated that many centres for asylum seekers had no indoor playrooms for children. There were pre-schools in some centres that opened for certain hours, which provided childcare for parents who were doing courses, but did not accommodate all children. However, after a series of incidents in this centre’s playroom, children were prohibited by the staff of the centre from entering the playroom, despite the complaints about the lack of children’s play facilities (Ní Shé, 2007).