The Right to Play, Learn, and Grow: Creating a Safe Place for Refugee Children

Every child has the right to play, learn, and grow.

For Rasleen, a three-year-old girl living in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, visiting her friends and playing on the slide at a Blumont community center is the highlight of her day. Like every child, she has a right to play, learn, and grow in safety.

Rasleen playing at one of the playgrounds in Za’atari camp.

Growing up in a refugee camp can be challenging for a child without enough space or opportunities to play at home. They need a safe place to develop and be themselves without the stressors of the outside world. With funding from UNHCR, our team of child protection officers and psychosocial counselors are available to work with children and their families at play areas and learning centers in the camp.

“Playing outside is crucial to child development. Some children have excess energy and need an outlet,” said Loay, a psychosocial counselor who works with children at the play areas. “I take care of the children to make sure they are safe.”

Through supervised play, many children in the camp are making friends and learning to socialize. Living in close quarters with family and not having a network of friends upon arrival at the camp means some children feel isolated and may not have developed social skills. Loay explained that she regularly works with children who used to pick fights with other children or prefer to play in the streets instead of at the center. Now, she said, they are channeling their energy into play and sport and gradually building their confidence.

Two friends playing together at one of the safe spaces for children at Za’atari camp.

At the community centers, children have options with both outdoor play areas and spaces to learn. At Learning Hubs, UNHCR-funded spaces where camp residents can access computers and learn about technology, supervisors are teaching computer skills and ensuring safety online. On the sports fields, kids join for activities like foosball, soccer, and dance.

A child learning to use a computer at one of the Learning Hubs.

Girls playing foosball at the community center.

In addition, supervised playtime can be an essential resource for mothers who are attending trainings or workshops and need someone to watch their children. In a refugee camp, mothers often have no childcare options and are unable to take courses or pursue a career if they have small children at home.

“Having a safe place for the children to stay at while their mothers attend trainings is essential, as they don’t have any other options. They feel at peace leaving their kids at a secure and safe place, where they can learn through playing,” said Duaa, a daycare supervisor.

Duaa, a daycare supervisor, playing with children while their mothers are in workshops.

The center is a source of joy not only for kids like Rasleen, but also for the Blumont team. Loay shared, “I feel proud of these children and how they have developed; it is a great achievement for me and them.”

“Seeing the children happy makes my day,” said Duaa.