Top 5 ways to Support Children’s Play in Emergencies and Crisis

Top 5 ways to Support Children’s Play in Emergencies and Crisis

It’s very important to take care of children’s emotional well-being in emergencies and crisis such as armed conflicts or natural disasters. Regardless of circumstances, for children the best coping mechanism is PLAY. It helps restore their sense of safety and normality, and it minimises the impact of crises on their healthy development.

It is possible to sustain playtime during crisis to help children keep busy and stay positive.

Here’s top 5 ways how parents, carers or volunteers can support PLAY with minimum effort using everyday objects:

1. Cardboard Boxes

preschool girl writing on a cardboard box

Cardboard boxes can be used for construction play as building blocks – to build a fortress, a hideaway or a cosy den. Children can also use them to write or draw stories, create a doll house, or construct a garage for play-pretend.

2. Loose Parts

Sticks, pebbles, sea shells, buttons or leaves are perfect for sorting & stacking, counting, Early Numeracy, mark-making and art projects. Great to make patterns and prints in sand or play dough, or as decorations for “small world” play such as tiny houses, mini roads, toy dinosaur dens or fairy worlds. A very soothing and sensory experience.

outdoor learning preschool girls building sand castle with sticks

3. Fabrics, Pillows, Blankets

preschool cosy den boy hiding in cushions

Fabrics, Pillows, Blankets – Perfect for role plays and dress-up games. Help children create costumes and imitate real life. Great construction material for building dens, castles or hide-aways. Can be used to help release energy, soothe their nervous system, and bring comfort – children love to snuggle and bury themselves under pillows or blankets.

4. Cups, Pots, Containers

Can be used for Early Maths – sorting, stacking, mixing, pouring water/sand/rice between containers. Perfect for sensory & messy play to combine with loose parts such as leaves, sticks or flower petals. Ideal for play pretend to imitate everyday life. Great for music-making to help children release energy.

every day objects loose parts preschool teacher training

5. Dry Food

multisensory early years

Pulses, pasta or rice can be used to support sensory play. Children love feeling textures and shapes. Immersing their hands in dry stuff helps soothe their nervous system. A perfect creative material for craft projects, making simple instruments, and even mark-making. Make sure dry food is used in a sustainable way and offered when/as appropriate according to situation.

NOTE: Make sure that all items you offer are clean and safe to use.  Keep small objects away from younger children to avoid swallowing. 

Using everyday objects that you can find around is an easy way to sustain children’s play, to offer continuity of education and to support their holistic well-being in times of crisis. You don’t need to organise special activity sessions every time –  some initial set-up or display may be helpful to offer easy access to resources, to inspire and invite children but in general leaving children to enjoy the items as they wish will help open up new creative possibilities for them that will last long and will support Child-led Play and Self-directed Learning.

Downloadable Resource

Supporting Play in Emergencies and Crisis

You’re welcome to share this infographic so that more educators, parents and volunteers working with children around the world can adequately support them in times of emergencies and crisis.

You can download the PDF version of this resource here:


If you wished to learn how to support Experiential Holistic Learning and Child-led Play on a daily basis check our new teacher support programme ACTIVE LEARNING BOOSTER. 

It’s a self-paced hands-on online training programme for Early Years and Primary Teachers who are ready to offer Future-Oriented Education based on Active Experiential Holistic Learning and Development. You can access first module for FREE.

Experiential Learning Future Oriented Education Teacher Training
Magdalena Matulewicz Witold Matulewicz Natural Born Leaders
Authors: Magdalena Matulewicz & Witold Matulewicz – Teacher Trainers, Assessors
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