What are Game Centres?

The Partners Hungary Foundation 13 Playing for inclusion (TOY4Inclusion) working with methodology Game Centre across Hungary in 2023, with the support of UNICEF and War Child, and launched the Mobile Playhouse service funded by EPIM (European Programme for Integration and Migration). These are inclusive spaces that free of charge for all are open, and equipped with lots of toys and equipment to provide free play and developmental activities for young children and their families. Play Centres are run by local organisations or municipalities. Each Play Centre is located in a place where vulnerable families (children and families living in poverty, refugees, Roma or families with difficulties) have no access to services that support the healthy development and learning of young children.

During the 6 months of operation between July and December 2023, we reached 3426 children. Play Centres delivered and led 1399 sessions and activities for children and families and 408 activities to support parents and carers.

 

Meet our 13 game centres across the country!

Game centre operator: Human Services Institution of the Municipality of Pesterzsébet

 

Challenges: In the XX district, on the outskirts of Budapest a significant proportion of residents are from disadvantaged and/or Roma families, where a large proportion of children are socio-culturally lagging behind the children of the majority society. The majority of parents in these families are either not working or support themselves through casual or public work. The number of families moving up from rural areas and slums has also increased in recent years. The importance of early development is well known, but there is little or no free access to healthy development activities, catch-up and development opportunities in the district.

 

The Game Centre provides help against social exclusion, supports the integration of children and families and their integration into the life of the district. The programmes will take place in two locations. On the one hand, the Hársfa Playground, a well-equipped, enclosed playground with a building in the middle and a community room inside. The other is the Preventive Centre's group room and gym.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • early development activities, learning games (story labyrinth, art therapy self-awareness group, crafts, children's rights),
  • parent support groups,
  • free play in safe conditions with quality equipment,
  • training of professionals (lectures on special education, psychology, forums).

 

Budapest 20. district Game Centre

 

"The Play Centre can help these families to combat social exclusion, support the integration of children and families and their integration into the life of the district. The Play Centres offer families, children and small communities the opportunity to spend quality time, which also helps the socialisation of the child. Children of majority, Roma, Ukrainian and other nationalities or with special educational needs move in a common space..."

Game centre operator: Roma for Development NGO 

 

Challenge: Ibrány is located on the north-western edge of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, population: 6371. The town is home to a significant number of disadvantaged families, mainly of Roma origin, who face serious problems in making a living. These families and children have no recreational or developmental opportunities in the area.     

 

A Game Centre by creating a community space has been created, where children and parents can find programmes and opportunities where they can develop and get away from the monotony of everyday life, and share (often similar) problems. The play centre is located in the courtyard of a family house, a 50 m2 garage, a cosy development centre with toys and equipment to help children's development. A a secure, enclosed courtyard suitable for outdoor activities with high levels of physical activity.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

    • for children developmental activities (patience, memory, seriality, literacy), dance lessons,
    • for families playing games, playing music, making crafts, preparing for the holidays,
    • for parents cooking club, promoting healthy lifestyles, health protection, helping children learn at home, parenting advice.

 

Music session at the Ibrány Play Centre

 

"The last 6 months have been an unforgettable experience for all of us, an extraordinary community has been formed, which is unique at local level and a huge achievement. For the families here, the Play Centre is a "refuge" from the grinding mill of daily problems, financial and social disadvantage, a place where they have the opportunity to live (even if only for a few hours) the life they all want to live in their daily lives. On top of all this, we have a professional support background from the professionals of Partners Hungary Foundation that is unparalleled in the field."     

Game centre operator: Helping Hands 2003 Social Association - A Sure Start Smurfs House for Children

 

Challenge: Kállósemjén is a village in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County, population 3.537. In the suburban parts of the settlement, people living in extreme poverty are highly concentrated and segregated. 

 

The Game Centre in the centre of the town, easily accessible by pushchair or bicycle, in the Biztos Start in the Smurfs Children's House complex. By creating it, we have succeeded in providing a service in the municipality that develops and strengthens family cohesion. "The programmes implemented in the Play Centre are a complex response to social problems, one of which is exclusion and stigmatisation. Providing a safe, informal, quality early childhood space for families where children and adults from different backgrounds can spend time together

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • for children, for families common games, learning about Roma cultures, creative activities, crafts, cooking club, lego therapy, developmental pedagogy,
  • for parents: a parents' academy on healthy eating, the dangers of childhood obesity, the importance of water, acceptance of difference, art therapy,
  • external family programmes: family days, walks in the castle gardens, visits to museums.

 

Kállósemjén Play Centre: dads are welcome to get involved.

 

"All of our activities are play-based, building creativity, increasing self-confidence, developing social-emotional and verbal skills, and opening the way for children to fulfil their potential. Supported by and integration into formal education, which is particularly important for Roma, migrant and disadvantaged children and families."

"Thanks to the Game Centre, cooperation between professionals, institutions and organisations in the municipality has been strengthened during HACS meetings. The local leadership, the local government is committed to the development of the settlement, to improving the living conditions of the population, and thus to the opportunities and programmes offered by the Game Centre. The events organised are as appropriate as possible for the children and are always geared to their real needs."

Game centre operator: PONT Mi Public Benefit Association

Challenges: The village of Kétsoprony is located in the central region of Békés county, with a population of 1,348. The village is surrounded by a centuries-old farmland, which has been in social need for the last 10 years, families with problems have moved out. There is no crèche, no linkages, no early development. 

 

The Game Centre in the centre of the village, in a beautifully renovated and modernised municipal building. The opening of the centre has provided a baby-friendly, enclosed space for socialising for the little ones and their parents. With the Play Centre, a community space has been created that belongs only to the children, providing a home for early development activities for the youngest children and a place for preschoolers and schoolchildren to spend time together, regardless of age.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • for 0-3 years baby-mama club, Rocking.
  • for children aged 3-7 instrumental music, speech therapy, helping the transition from kindergarten to school.
  • for primary school pupils storytelling and drama, cooking, creative crafts, high-mobility development, outdoor play in the courtyard, folk wooden toy workshop and folk wooden toy playhouse, board game club, LEGO activities.     
  • for the whole family mother's club, bead weaving, sewing together, team line-up competition, archery demonstration, concert, weaving workshop, building games, game afternoon, "Retro cinema" slide show, flower planting,
  • for parents and seniors arts and crafts activities, board games, special education lectures, talks with a psychologist, food workshops, brain teasers, board games club, pumpkin baking.

 

Kétsoprony Play Centre: local pensioners are also keen to lead craft activities

 

"There is no crèche in Kétsoprony, so the Play Centre has become a meeting place for children under 3. Since its opening, some children have turned 3 years old and feedback from parents has shown that their integration into the nursery community has gone smoothly."

"At our Insight event, parents and children alike were relaxed, chatting, interested and eagerly awaiting the activities. By the end of the year, the Play Centre had successfully established itself in the public consciousness, and parents were looking for programmes and interested in more."

Game centre operator: Csorippé - Association for disadvantaged people

Challenges: Korlát is located in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, population 290. There are no medical and educational institutions, kindergartens or schools in the settlement. Children go to school in the nearest settlement. 98% of the local community belong to the Roma/Gypsy ethnic group, children are from a cumulatively disadvantaged background, parents are unemployed or better employed as public workers in the local municipality.

 

The Game Centre is housed in a building of around 50 nm2, with a large playroom and a development room. The enclosed courtyard is suitable for safe outdoor play. It has created the only place in the region where children and parents can play together while professionals help the children's development. Children and parents from the surrounding villages also come to the Play Centre.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • craft activities,
  • development sessions,
  • outdoor physical activities, dance, gymnastics, football,
  • health screening bus visit, with university students
  • escape room programme,
  • traditional activities: pottery, folk embroidery, sewing.

 

Korláti Play Centre, dance session

 

"As there is no opportunity for family members to spend quality time together, children play with quality toys and spend their free time in a useful way, the biggest success of the Play Centre is that it has been able to attract straggling children, that children and families come to the Play Centre regularly, enthusiastically, motivated."  

"The children's social skills have developed, they have learned basic hygiene and social rules (e.g. greeting according to the time of day, using cutlery and napkins, washing hands, appreciating toys, cooperation, etc.). Their vocabulary and knowledge of the world has increased during the activities."

Game centre operator: Somnakuno Drom Roma Women's Civic Association

Challenges: Nagykálló is a town of 9134 inhabitants in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county. There are three segregations in the town, with a total of 1200 inhabitants of Roma origin. There are frequent conflicts between the three groups. Roma children require development in many skill areas, which is not available in the settlement.

The Game Centre is a purpose-built building in the courtyard of a detached house in the segregated area, with an enclosed garden and lots of toys. The association's main activities are the cultivation of traditions and culture, the integration of Roma children and traditional storytelling. In addition, it takes every opportunity to provide direct food or clothing donations to children and people in need.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • for children arts and crafts, sports, music, dance, cooking, storytelling, film club, outdoor activities, skill games, development activities, Lego club, 
  • for parents open discussions, support groups, film club, health day, child education, story-telling-my-story, debt management, yoga/aerobics, men's club, women's club, cooking club,
  • for families family day, games, arts and crafts, dance, first aid, language, movement, early childhood development, story time, police day, film club, festive preparation.

 

Nagykálló, craft activities for children and adults

 

"The association has made very good alliances with local associations, institutions (Police, Kállai Kettős Association, Jósa András Hospital, Health Promotion Office) and even the municipality by the end of the project."

"The children have benefited in ways they never have before. It really had a great impact on the whole target group, as we have never had such an active, meaningful and colourful time."

Game centre operator: Nagykörű Községi Önkormányzat

 

Challenges: Nagykörű is a village in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county, with a population of 1.581 people, which is a closed community. This is a major obstacle for community building. Many families with young children have settled in the village, bringing a new colour to the life of the settlement. 

 

The Game Centre is located in a very spacious room of the Nagykörű Community Centre, which is suitable for free play, table-top activities, games, learning and high-movement activities, thanks to the easily movable furniture. The community centre has a large enclosed courtyard.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • for children and families craft activities, Gypsy story series, board game club, folk dance, dog therapy, environmental education, family days, family quizzes, special holidays (e.g. pumpkin carving, St. Martin's Day, Advent),
  • for parents baking/cooking club, parenting advice. 

 

Nature education at the Play Centre in Nagykörű

 

"Among the programmes of the play centre, I would highlight the family days and family competitions. The bird feeder making, the pumpkin carving and the Martinmas Day celebrations were very successful. Families have become more and more accustomed to the functioning of the play centre, the joy of playing together, making crafts and being together in a community."

Game centre operator: 21st Century Roma Women's Association 

Challenges: Nyíregyháza is a city of county status in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county with a population of 115,711. The Association has been operating for more than 8 years in Jósaváros, a district of Nyíregyháza. It has a population of around 10,000 people and is home to the 11-storey Toronyház, the "black spot" of the town. Owned by the municipality, the building has nearly 200 flats of 21 square metres, and nearly 80 % of the residents are Roma families. The majority of the children, once in the first grade, face various difficulties and are unable to meet the requirements, so they have to repeat the first grade. This leads to a loss of self-confidence and they almost suffer through the school years.

 

The Game Centre is housed in the community space and the library opposite, located in the "ÜVEGHÁZ" on the residential promenade. It is used for trying out and borrowing games from the toy library and for various leisure activities. The library is also used for child development activities and parent clubs.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • Thematic child development activities e.g.: crafts, chess playground, yoga, storytelling (emotional education, tradition preservation, socialisation, empathy development, development of logical and creative thinking, tension release, self-awareness, etc.)
  • Thematic parent clubs (topics include: utility debts, dental check-ups, treatment of children's illnesses at home, on-call doctor, pregnancy, debt with bailiffs, gynaecological problems, childcare benefits, pension/disability, school absenteeism)
  • Family programmes designed to strengthen family cohesion, promote communication, enjoyment and intergenerational bonding (beach, cinema, trash can club, film projection, Halloween party, Christmas party, toy rental).

 

Nyíregyháza Game Centre

 

"Our programme is unique because the door is open to everyone. Roma, non-Roma, disabled, 'living in Chicago', 'not living in Chicago'."

"I, as coordinator, am very grateful for this programme, as families have access to free services that they cannot afford. After 4.5 and a half months, there has been a huge change in a positive direction for the children involved, I can say that from the feedback from parents and teachers."

Game centre operator: Cultural Association of Pécsbánya 

Challenges: Pécs, the largest city in the Transdanubian region, is located in Baranya county, and one of its parts is Pécsbánya. Its population is made up of old mining families (elderly, widows, descendants), intellectuals, often with large families, who have moved here from the city centre in the last 15 years, and Roma who have settled in former mining houses. After the closure of the mines, jobs disappeared and emigration began. Service providers moved out, schools closed. Many families in Pécsbánya (due to their social and existential situation) do not have the opportunity to enjoy quality recreation or to provide their children with experiences or even development. For these reasons, among others, this part of Pécs needs social rehabilitation, in which the Association is actively involved.

The Game Centre is located in the Pécsbánya Community House. In addition to the playroom, the Association is free to use the large kitchen and other spacious rooms of the building for its programmes, so the space can accommodate a large number of participants. The Community Centre is surrounded by a large courtyard with a small playground and a large tree-filled garden. 

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • children and families for crafts, creative activities, free play, fairy tales, slide shows, Lego, board games, card games, music and instrumental activities, cooking together, sports day, high-mobility development, kindergarten/school outreach events, nature walks (learning about animals and plants), celebrating special days together, learning about folk traditions, environmental education/environmental education 
  • for parents: cooking, chat club, start-of-term clothes fair, CV writing help, breastfeeding, first aid and basic health and hygiene, mental health, early childhood development, learning difficulties.

 

Pécsbánya, Game Centre, free play

 

"The Play Centre can answer parents' questions on the spot (with the involvement of professionals) and offers an alternative for recharging, experiential learning, getting to know each other, exploring and getting to know problems through play. The environment is safe, child-centred, the staff are open to the opinions and thoughts of the visitors - so together we can influence the future of Pécsbánya in a good direction." 

"...we are optimistic. The reason for this optimism is that the creation and operation of the Game Centre over the last six months has deepened our existing professional and human relationships and has also brought new ones. It is in the common interest of all of us here in the Pécs region that the Play Centre's operations run smoothly and that it becomes a family/cultural centre - a place that most people in Pécs know exists. A significant achievement is that a Community House, including the Play Centre, nominated for a Youth Award."

Game centre operator: Kis Bocs Baba-Mama Public Benefit Association

 

Challenges: Szihalom is a village in Heves county, population 1986. There are two settlements 1 km from the municipality, with which they are in a district municipality, and where the number of children and families with multiple disadvantages is almost complete. 

 

The Game Centre is housed in the Hungarian House, an interactive experience centre, where the Little Cars Play Centre operates in 3 rooms. One of the rooms is used for creative activities and the Zümi classroom, the Ability Club and various thematic presentations. The next room is used for high-mobility games and various developmental toys. Here you will also find a cot, a crib and a high chair for breastfeeding. The next room is the development room, where toys are grouped according to areas to be developed. There is a range of role-playing games, but also the Baby Mum Club or the Baby Listener music session. In the large event room of the Play House, they are able to organise larger events such as the opening of the Play Centre, the Health Day, the Honey Donation event, Santa Claus and other large-scale events.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • for children, parents, families free play, health awareness, promotion of volunteering, tradition keeping, crafts, children's skill sessions, intergenerational activities, baby-mum club, mental health, lego club, family days. 
  • thematic programmes learning to play, musical babysitting, Ability club, Zümi school, empowered play, creative activities, slide show.

 

Foam party at the Szihalmi Play Centre

 

"In half a year, 872 children and 813 adults have participated in the play centre's programmes and visited us. We are very happy with this result."

"It would be very important to have the possibility to continue and to get funding, because we have started something that goes beyond the scope of a project. We have started a social development in the children's lives that we need to continue, because the results will be seen later on."

Game centre operator: Municipality of Tarpa

 

Challenges: Tarpa is a border settlement in the north-eastern corner of the country, in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, with a population of 2315, of which 261 are under 10 years old. There are many disadvantaged and multiply disadvantaged children and children of refugee families.

 

The Game Centre is located in the centre of the city in a building owned by the municipality. The building has two playrooms, changing rooms, a hall, kitchen, toilets and disabled toilets. The building has a lockable courtyard, a grassed area and a paved area with parking. Outsourced programmes are also organised in the gym of the local kindergarten. 

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • for children free play, puppetry, arts and crafts, developmental activities (improving their learning skills, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, attention, memory)
  • for parents assistance with speech and language therapy, advice on child-rearing, and increasing knowledge of child psychology,
  • for families family days, dance, festive preparations, baby-mum club

 

Movement and music at the Tarpa Play Centre

 

"The reputation of the play centre is spreading among families, who are keen to visit us. Children are constantly evolving and there are toys for all ages. The relationship between parents is also growing and they feel comfortable at the play centre. Parents are very cooperative in the implementation of the programmes. HACS members and volunteers are also able to work together more and more effectively." 

"Even in the day-to-day life of a kindergarten, children who spend time together in the play centre are more attentive to each other and to their peers. They tell stories to each other, which makes the other children more interested."

Game centre operator: Túrkeve Municipality 

 

Challenges: The town of Túrkeve is located in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County, with a population of 8,332. The settlement is socially, economically and infrastructurally disadvantaged, it is bypassed by main roads. Due to a low birth rate and a relatively high mortality rate, the depopulation is significant and the situation is aggravated by a high emigration rate. The proportion of children in educational establishments who are socially deprived, disadvantaged or severely disadvantaged reaches 68%. A large proportion of families cannot afford to buy durable, high-quality toys, development equipment or sports equipment due to a lack of financial resources.

 

The Game Centre in the main square of the town, in the municipal children's library building, which      a quality inclusive early childhood development space has been created in Túrkevé, providing a safe and secure place for children and their families from different backgrounds to spend useful and enjoyable time together. The play centre has become a meeting place, a community playground, an information space and a professional workshop for children's development and family cohesion, creating a niche service in Túrkevé that did not exist before. 

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • for children, families bird-friendly family activities, baby-mum club, gymnastics, swinging, advice from a nurse, reading and writing sessions, creative activities, folk dance, folk games,
  • for parents "Parents' Academy" on the education and development of children (the importance of early development, ways to overcome disadvantages, talent management, ethno-pedagogy, prevention of parental burnout, ways to solve family crises); joint cooking, joint creative afternoon, bike ride, health day.

 

Túrkevei Game Centre

 

"Our goal is to further expand the quality community services reflecting local needs, the effective functioning of the communities and professional staffs that have developed as a result of the programme, through the services and programmes of the Play Centre. We believe that the programme has brought to the surface the local resources - young professionals, parents and grandmothers who are willing to take action, generous entrepreneurs, philanthropic families and workplace communities - that contribute to community cohesion and to a more livable and socially responsive Túrkeve."

Game centre operator: Eötvös József Gypsy-Hungarian Pedagogical Society

 

Challenges: In Újpest, a suburb of Budapest, the Gypsy Nationality Municipality runs a school for disadvantaged students in need of development. The building is located in the middle of a housing estate, in the middle of poor prefabricated buildings, and the neighbourhood is mainly populated by parents with 8 primary school qualifications. It is from this socio-cultural environment that Roma, non-Roma, Ukrainian children and families from disadvantaged backgrounds come to the Play Centre.

 

The Game Centre is located in the headquarters of the Gypsy Nationality Self-Government. The building also houses the Gypsy Local History Collection and the Roma National Library, but it is possible to use the whole building for the game, so there are two larger rooms and two development rooms. A playground is located behind the building. When the weather is good, it can be used for ball games, for example, or for line-up competitions.

 

They are included in their programmes and activities: 

  • for children and families arts and crafts, story time with paper theatre and slide show, festive preparation, board game club, Lego club, cooking, police day, health awareness, music therapy, dance. 
  • for parents talking to professionals in parent clubs (healthy eating, mental health advice, conflict management, school problems, support for children with special educational needs).

 

Újpest Play Centre, handicrafts

 

"When mum, dad and the children did crafts together, they had a good laugh and a good chat. There was a visible happiness and joy on their faces when the parents forgot all their worries and just focused on their child..."

"The initial pejorative feeling of being alienated by the idea of going to play in the Gypsy Municipality was overcome by the non-Gypsy parents, who felt that the programmes and the quality time spent there were their own little community."

"Everybody sees that something has been set in motion for the development of children and families. There are many new and better ideas to expand the programme..."

The Partners Hungary Foundation, with the support of the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), has set up a mobile Toy Library service using the ICDI's Toy for Inclusion method, which started operating in May 2023, visiting two refugee shelters twice a week on a regular basis. The van loaded with toys arrives at the hostels with a competent coordinator, where it plays with Hungarian-speaking Ukrainian refugee Roma children. The Mobile Toy Library has proved to be very successful with the children and the shelter residents and staff, participating in festivals and family events in addition to regular play sessions.

 

We are open for cooperation with institutions, companies and municipalities working with children, contact us: hegedusm@partnershungary.hu.

 

About the Game Centre method ICDI (International Child Development Initiatives) read more on