The Permanent Secretary for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gerry Lavery, recently visited Glencraig Integrated Children’s Centre (GICC) in Craigavad to carry out the official opening of their new outdoor play area.
Funded by the Department’s “Rural Childcare Programme”, the completion of the new play area took a lengthy two years of research, planning and development. This opportunity was only made possible by the DARD Minister; Michelle Gildernew’s innovative understanding that rural areas face their own, very specific, disadvantages in relation to quality, accessible childcare provision.
The design of the new outdoor area now allows for the optimum use of the available space and offers a range of imaginative play opportunities – a playboat, house and den as well as sensory elements in the construction, horticulture and minibeast areas.
It’s widely acknowledged that today’s children are less active than those from previous generations and research shows that the decrease in activity can impact in later life on a person’s psychological and physical health. Encouraging children to play outdoors breeds numerous benefits including the development of the imagination and creative thinking, the ability to problem solve and not forgetting the physical benefits of being active.
The lack of overhead cover had in the past restricted outdoor play at the Centre due to unfavourable weather but the new covered deck area increases the availability of outdoor play therefore providing a greater variety and choice for the children all year round.
Commenting on the outdoor play area, GICC Coordinator, Deirdre Kelly says:
“The funding support from the Rural Childcare Programme has enabled us to greatly improve the quality and safety of the childcare services we provide at the Centre. We are confident that the improved facilities and equipment now available to us as a result of this funding will help the children to source enjoyable experiences outdoors will make it more appealing for them, and that they will want to continue this in their own home environments.
Childhood is a time of exploration and discovery and it is vital that children have access to the wide range of physical and sensory experiences that can only be offered in an outdoor environment.”
After a tour of the outdoor area, and the chance to see the children from the Centre playing on the new equipment, the Permanent Secretary unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening ceremony.