‘Play for Inclusion’ Handbook: a new resource for professionals working with refugee children and their caregivers

ICDI is happy to share the ‘Play for Inclusion’ Handbook, a new resource for practitioners who work in non-formal early childhood education and care (ECEC) services supporting the integration and psychosocial well-being of young refugee children and their caregivers.

Around 7.9 million Ukrainian refugees were registered across Europe since the beginning of the war. Of these, 40% are children, who have witnessed distressing events and are experiencing anxiety and unhappiness that could develop into longer-term difficulties. Providing safe, welcoming, multi-service spaces for these children and their caregivers is crucial to promote their psychosocial well-being and ensuring their access to education, health, and protection services.

From July 2022, ICDI and our long-standing partner and national coordinator of the TOY for Inclusion programme in Slovakia, Škola dokorán, are working hard to provide support to young Ukrainian refugee children and caregivers through play and learning opportunities. Thanks to UNICEF’s and EPIM’s support, we were able to open six new Play Hubs in 2022 and four more will open their doors in 2023 alongside a mobile Play Hub. 

Professional development is key to the quality and impact of any ECEC service. Professionals working with refugee children need appropriate knowledge, competencies, and skills to build safe environments and promote the integration and well-being of distressed children and their caregivers.

After training the staff of the new Play Hubs in Slovakia and based on the needs and experiences expressed by these practitioners, ICDI has developed the Handbook ‘Play for Inclusion’ on inclusive play-based activities that promote integration and healing from trauma for young refugee children. The Handbook is intended for civil society organisations, educators, community development workers, mediators, ECEC and preschool practitioners, primary school teachers, teaching assistants, play workers, and volunteers. It is organised in five parts:

  • Part One through Three of the Handbook are intended for civil society organisations, trainers, mentors and ECD practitioners. These sections provide important background theory on the effects of war, displacement and trauma on child development and well-being, the concept of community-based child-friendly spaces – Play Hubs, as well as an overview of non-formal ECD services in emergencies.
  • Part Four presents the benefits of intergenerational learning for young and old, with particular attention to social inclusion.
  • Part Five provides an easy-to-use selection of simple activities that can be organised in Play Hubs and other non-formal and informal education settings involving children, parents, and other family members. This is a compilation of original activities as well as adapted ones from other publications.

The Handbook can be downloaded for free in English and Slovak from the ICDI website. Translations in Ukrainian and other languages will be available and shared with the general public soon.