The Executive is being urged to prioritise and resource provision for play and leisure in order to the meet the needs of Northern Ireland’s children .
The call to action has been made by PlayBoard, the lead agency for children’s play in Northern Ireland, at the launch of its Making Connections Through Play briefing paper at Stormont.
Accounting for approximately 25% of the population, Northern Ireland has not only the youngest population in the UK but also in the European Union. This number is expected to increase over the next 15 years, reaching 469,000 children in 2023.
Playboard says such growth in numbers highlights the increased importance of recognising and meeting the diverse needs of local children and young people.
Its research has repeatedly indicated that through play and leisure, children and young people make connections between themselves and the world around them.
However, the options and environments available today are very different from what they were in the past.
Jacqueline O’Loughlin, chief executive, of Playboard, said: “Play is an intrinsic aspect of childhood and growing up, and deserves respect.
“Children and young people need play and leisure time and they would prefer to be outside, but are limited by options available in their locality. “