The amazing benefits of play for children in foster care

May 22, 2018 Published by


As part of our #Fun4All campaign, this article aims to spread awareness of the current Foster Care Fortnight, an annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and show how foster care can transform lives! The 2018 campaign runs from May 14 to May 27

Children who are in foster care may have experienced some kind of trauma in their past or may have a specific disability or illness, that has lead to them needing alternative care.  Being away from the family home whatever the circumstances can lead to a child being withdrawn or anxious;  is the job of the carer to try and manage this and ensure that the child feels happy and secure in their new home. 

Sue Nicholas, a foster carer who offers respite care, describes how she ensures that the children are engaged in a range of different activities, to help them settle in.

A 12-year-old girl with ADHD, who is very active, was introduced to numerous activities but found she really enjoyed archery.  Considering this requires stillness it was an unlikely choice, but she is now a County champion in her age range and it has helped her to manage her ADHD more appropriately.

A boy of 15 who was born with cerebral palsy, who uses two walking sticks and has been wheelchair bound in the past.  Walking with our dogs over uneven ground at his own pace developed his balance and his sense of achievement.  He has gone on to get the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award that involved several miles hiking, camping and volunteering.  He now helps other DofE candidates to achieve their awards.

A six-year-old girl who struggled at school, who was the youngest of four siblings all in the same foster placement.  The older three children all had significant needs and the child we had was lost in the family.  She loved being outdoors and we would walk and run for miles playing follow my leader, climbing trees and making imaginary stories about the animals we would see. This freedom would allow her to talk about her life and her hopes.

Indoors she loved dominoes and playing with soft balls, throwing and catching and trying to hit the legs of the other player.  She has gone on to become a Pony Club member and competes in jump races.  Her confidence is high and she knows she can do more.

Sue advises that foster carers start off with a simple activity so that the child’s level of ability can be gauged; as children will frequently give up if something is too difficult, it is vital to ensure they are not made to look or feel inadequate. She suggests games that don’t take too long as an ideal starting point, as looked after children often have concentration issues. Children will also enjoy repeating a familiar activity, as this can make them feel more secure in their new setting; security is an important element in gaining the trust of these children. 

It is important to remember that children are individuals with their own set of needs and wants. They have hopes, dreams and expectations but their circumstances may have led to them burying these in order to become unnoticed.  Giving children the opportunities to engage in different types of play allows them to make sense of the world; gain confidence; increase self-esteem and feel more secure in their new home. 

By Claire Gillies and Sue Nicholas


Are you a foster carer, or considering becoming one? Join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter.



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This post was written by Fundamentally Children

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