Children’s charity Barretstown launches Barretstown Reconnect campaign for August


71% of Irish adults say that ‘play’ helped them make friends and build relationships during their childhood

90% feel children should have more freedom to play and 69% believe there is too much emphasis on ‘organised play’ for children today

Children’s charity Barretstown encourages adults to reconnect with their childhood this August through a new play-inspired campaign

Seven in 10 (71%) Irish adults say that play helped them to make friends and build relationships during their childhood. This, along with developing their imagination (71%), was noted as the primary role of play during childhood, according to new research published today, by children’s charity Barretstown, to mark the launch of its Reconnect campaign.  The Reconnect campaign will run throughout August, with the aim of encouraging people around the country to reconnect with their childhood by creating special family ‘moments’ with fond memories of their past, for young ones in their lives.

Barretstown provides therapeutic recreation programmes for children with serious illness and their families, and gives children the part of their childhood that they may have missed out on, due to serious illness, back. Through this campaign, the children’s charity is aiming to bring moments of serious fun to families across the country, to remind them of the importance of fun and play in childhood. 

The research shows the importance of play for the emotional development of children, with nine in 10 agreeing that play had an influence on their own personal and emotional development. Younger people acknowledged play during their childhood as an influencing factor in their personal development far more than adults questioned. 71% of those aged 18-34 said that play allowed them to be creative compared to 62% of all adults and 69% of those in the younger cohort said play encouraged their curiosity compared to just 58% of overall respondents.

Speaking about the campaign, Dee Ahearn, CEO of Barretstown said; “Barretstown’s mission is to rebuild the lives of children and families affected by serious illness. We strongly believe that every child with serious illness should enjoy their childhood and this research further emphasises the importance of play and fun. I would encourage everyone who can to reconnect with their childhood through this campaign and get playing!”


When it comes to ‘playspiration’, 72% of Irish adults say that, as children, friends were their primary source of inspiration for play. Siblings (49%), parents (46%), books (38%) and TV (25%) also feature in the top five sources of ‘playspiration’. However, technology sources were cited more frequently amongst those aged 18-34 with 34% choosing TV; 29% films (vs 21% all adults) and 19% gaming (vs 9% for all adults).

In contrast, when adult respondents were asked what they believe to be children’s sources of playspiration today, technology took the top four spots - iPads / tablets (68%), TV (60%), online (57%) and gaming (51%).

Organised play

Nine in 10 (90%) survey respondents believe that children should have more freedom to play, like the respondents did as children. 69% of adults think that there is too much emphasis on ‘organised’ play for children nowadays and this increases to 74% when asking parents only.  On average those with younger children (less than 3 years of age) have on average 1.5 playdates a week with 13% of parents claiming to have 3, and 36% to have 2, play dates organised for their children a week.  The older children get, the less frequent their playdates get – averaging 1.2 playdates per week.

A quarter of parents surveyed said they had difficulty managing their child’s diary and the older their children get the more difficult this becomes, with four in 10 (41%) of those with children aged 6-10 saying it is difficult to manage.

Additional findings in the research show that:

  • 67% of adults said that playing outdoors in a field / park / green was in their top three favourite ways to play during their childhood, followed by playing in a garden (54%) and using imagination to play make believe games (49%).
  • Younger people were more likely to choose art-related activities (40% 18-24 year olds; 35% 25-34), with sleepovers and watching films also scoring highly amongst these age groups.
  • Teachers are an important source of ‘playspiration’ to younger people with 28% of 18-34 year olds noting them as a source, compared to 16% overall.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of adults believe that children use their imagination far less nowadays.

Barretstown will be sharing insights on some of the serious fun games that their campers play across social media over the coming weeks so everyone at home can get involved! Follow the children’s charity on Twitter and Instagram (@Barretstown) and Like the Facebook page ( to find out more.

Barretstown offers its unique service of therapeutic recreation to campers free of charge and need to raise €5 million each year to keep bringing the Barretstown Magic to children with serious illness.


The Barretstown survey was carried out online by Coyne Research.  The nationally representative online survey was carried out amongst 1,000 adults, age 18+ years, with quotas being set in terms of age, gender, social class and region, to ensure that a nationally representative sample was achieved.  The survey fieldwork was carried out between 17th – 24th May 2017.

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