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Play & Recreation

One of the national outcomes in Better Outcomes Brighter Futures: National Policy framework for children and young people 2013-2020, is the active and healthy physical and mental wellbeing of all children. This outcome requires initiatives that enable children to enjoy play, recreation, sport, arts culture and nature.

Speaking at a conference on Play and Recreation in Dublin Castle in September 2012, Minister Frances Fitzgerald stated that “promoting and supporting play and recreation is not a soft policy issue. Instead it is a key policy response to improving outcomes for children and supporting children’s physical, emotional and social development. Play and recreation is integral to children’s lives.”

Key findings on the benefits of play and recreation are emerging from Growing Up in Ireland - the National Longitudinal Study of Children.

A report on ‘Overweight And Obesity Among 9-Year-Olds’ published in November 2011 found that that 26% of nine year old children were found to be overweight or obese. It will not surprise any of you here that children who exercised infrequently (less than three days in the last fortnight) were about three times more likely to be overweight or obese than those who exercised on a regular basis (greater than nine days in the last fortnight).

A report on ‘Influences on 9-Year-Old's Learning: Home, School and Community’, published in January 2012, outlines how access to appropriate structured and unstructured play and recreation activities can have a real and lasting impact on the academic and educational achievements of children.


Child Friendly Cities and Towns

The national network of Childcare Committees is becoming active in this policy area. Minister Frances Fitzgerald delivered the opening address at a high level conference at Dublin Castle (in September 2012) organised by the National Childcare Committees, on the theme of making Ireland’s urban spaces more child friendly. Dublin City recently became the first Irish city to move formally towards this goal by introducing a fully integrated play policy with the aim of making the city of Dublin an International Child Friendly City.

Dublin City Play Plan 2012-2017

DES Active School Flag Programme is a Department of Education and Skills Initiative to encourage schools to move towards a more physically active model for students. For more information check out

Sugradh Ireland chaired by Dr. Carol Barron of Dublin City University is Ireland’s leading NGO in this area aiming to highlight the essential role which play has in a child's development, and especially the role of 'free play’ and recreation in children’s lives. The organisation is currently developing a new play and recreation web portal, in partnership with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. More information on Sugradh Ireland is available on their website:

Policy Documents

National Play Policy

READY, STEADY, PLAY! A National Play Policy - Executive Summary
READY, STEADY, PLAY! A National Play Policy


National Recreation Policy

National Recreation Policy for Young People - Summary

National Recreation Policy for Young People


National Play Day and National Recreation Week


National Play Day

Since 2011, the DCYA has provided annual funding to support National Play Day. The aim of National Play Day is to help increase public awareness of the importance of play. Grants (maximum of €650) are offered to Local Authorities to organise activities that promote a theme that is decided by DCYA and the Local Authority Play and Recreation Network. The theme for National Play Day 2016 was ‘Remembering 1916’. The theme helped to highlight the games children played in 1916 as part of our Rising commemorations. Children and young people could participate and enjoy games from a century ago such as skipping, rounders, marbles, relays and obstacle courses. Artistic and imaginative options include creative play elements such as messy play, art, dress up and den building. 26 Local Authorities staged Play Day events in 2016.


National Recreation Week

National Recreation Week is funded by the DCYA for older children and young people aged 12 upwards. A maximum of €1,700 is available under fund to each Local Authority. The theme for National Recreation week is identified annually by the DCYA and the Local Authority Play and Recreation Network. In 2015 the theme was ‘Remembering 1916’ and 22 Local Authorities were funded under the scheme. Among the events funded by DCYA were: vintage train rides, a school bus tour, traditional games; Rounders, Hopscotch, Kick the Can, Piggy, Ball Against the Walls, Red Rover, Tug of War, Horse Shoe Pitching, Skipping and Marbles, music, face painting, sports; Rugby, Archery, Kayaking, Canoeing and a 1900’s Soccer Game (played with participants dressed in clothing of the day and playing with a traditional bladder ball), traditional bog based activities including Bogaton, lectures, historical field trips, themed hikes, open air performances, book festivals, treasure hunts and painting and creative writing workshops.


DCYA Capital Grant Scheme for Play and Recreation

The DCYA capital grant funding scheme for play and recreation provides capital funding to support new and existing play and recreation facilities for children and young people. The total amount of funding made available each year is €250,000. A maximum grant of €20,000 is allocated to each Local Authority. Local Authorities are invited to apply for funding for projects which provide:

New and innovative play and recreation spaces and facilities (New and innovative projects can include new facilities, equipment, designs and /or the utilisation of non- traditional play spaces

Refurbishment or upgrading of existing play and recreation spaces and facilities.

Under the Capital Grant Scheme for Play and Recreation, 24 awards were made in 2016. The largest award was for €10,000 and the smallest was €1,500.


Local Authority Play and Recreation Network (LAPRN)

This group was established in 2012 to introduce a more coordinated and interagency approach to achieving the main goals of the play and recreation policies at both national and local level. The member of the group are key Local Authority managers and staff responsible for the local delivery of play and recreation services in communities across the country.
National Recreation Week and National Play Day are promoted and developed through the partnership between DCYA and the Local Authority Play and Recreation Network (LAPRN), as is the DCYA Capital Grant Scheme for Play and Recreation.

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