Play Sets the Table to Support Newcomer Families

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What has the power to cross borders, speak several languages, learn new skills, make friends and connect different generations? Play.

Skipping, hula hoops, crab walking and snacks brought more than 50 children, parents, volunteers and staff together to explore how play and sport can build a sense of belonging and connection for newcomer children and their families. The Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA)’s weekly homework club teamed up with the International Institute for Child Rights and Development to co-host a workshop and community dinner on February 28, 2018.

“This was a special family day because we’re working with IICRD’s Child Thrive program. Together, we are getting the kids to move, play and talk about what it means to stay active,” says Gita John-Iyam, ICA’s Family and Youth Services Coordinator.

During the workshop, newcomer elementary-school aged children from different countries explored how their favourite sports/games help them to have fun, make friends and learn new skills. The children especially enjoyed a ‘travelling opinion’ activity. Children were invited to move (run, hop, crawl) to their share their perspective (Agree, Neutral, Disagree) on statements such as ‘sports are for people of all ages’ and ‘sports help me to clear my mind’. This activity was also used in a participatory action research project led by IICRD on the use of sports/play to promote child well-being for displaced young people. Key lessons from this project, co-led by IICRD’s Laura Lee and many international partners, were also shared with parents such as the important role that adults have in supporting play among children of various ages.

“We tried to be creative in using movement, games and props while also ‘digging into the content’ to explore the children’s own ideas about the characteristics and benefits of play,” says IICRD’s Elaina Mack. “ICA’s volunteers, many of whom are youth newcomers themselves, were incredibly supportive to help us to engage a large group of about 30 children with different ages, backgrounds and interests.”

While there were certainly lots of ideas for improvement, many children, parents, volunteers and staff shared how much they much they enjoyed the inter-generational format for learning, playing and eating together. Further opportunities may be explored for further collaboration, such as sessions to deepen knowledge and awareness about child rights for newcomer Canadians.

“It was a safe, warm and fun place for my whole family. Thank you.” – Parent Participant


The Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) provides transition, settlement and outreach services to help create and support a welcoming community for newcomer children and their families. ICA first collaborated with IICRD more than 20 years ago through Children Enabling Change, a community development initiative to better serve the needs of people with disabilities living in multi-cultural communities. The International Institute for Child Rights and Development (IICRD) strives to bring dignity, belonging and justice for all children in Canada and in more than 40 countries around the world.


Stepping boldly into leading with children and youth to create a better future for us all.


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A Canadian non-profit charity working locally, nationally, and internationally.

PO Box 35039 Hillside Victoria, British Columbia Canada V8T 5G2