Christmas Day in the Summer: Supporting the importance of play and physical activity for Vulnerable Children during a period of societal change and stress

At the beginning of July, 500 Activity Packs targeting 223 vulnerable families were distributed to support children aged 0-13 years during COVID 19. The initiative was led by Meath Springboard Family Support Services and jointly funded by Meath Children and Young People’s Services Committee (CYPSC) and Meath County Council. The overall aim of the activity packs was to support parents of vulnerable children to engage their children in play and physical activity as an important part of daily routine during the current Covid 19 pandemic.

Meath Springboard Family Support Services worked in collaboration with partner organisations in Co. Meath, namely, Kells People’s Resource Centre, Trim FRC, East Coast FRC, Meath Partnership, Meath Local Sports Partnership (LSP), Tusla Social Work, Tusla Prevention Partnership and Family Support and Tusla Child and Family Support Networks. Packing took place on 1st July, 2020 in the Sports Hall, Claremount Stadium, Navan while observing all public health COVID 19 guidelines. The activity packs were put together to support the Family Fun Games which are detailed on the Meath  LSP website Each pack was put together based on the number and age of  children per family. The play materials chosen for each child were broken down into age categories as follows: 0-11 months, 1-3 years, 3-6 years, 6-9 years,  9-12 years and 12+.

An Example of activity playpack contents for 3-6 years included plastic tea set, paw patrol plush ball, fairy/prin/unicorn fun puzzle, doctor set and chalk board with chalk and eraser. An example of activity playpack contents for 6-9 years included draughts, football, block tech building blocks, large bubbles and boom bat. The contents were also chosen to support minimal parental support demands as it was felt that the capacity of parents will vary for different reasons at this time – personal issues, working from home, working out of home and caring for other family members for example. The packs were designed so that children can open out the contents and get on with playing. The activity packs were collected by the organisations involved and delivered to 500 vulnerable children across the county of Meath. Initial feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly positive with some noting that they were surprised by the quality and quantity of the overall activity pack content. On receiving the activity packs some of the parents also described it as being like Christmas Day in the Summer . Unlike Christmas Day, the parents were as surprised as the children!