Successful TOY for Inclusion event at the European Parliament

“I strongly believe that social inclusion starts with young children and their eagerness to play,” posts Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon on Twitter, after the recent Pop-Up Museum she hosted at the European Parliament.

The event was organised by International Step by Step Association – ISSA and International Child Development Initiatives –ICDI. MEPs from other countries, national Parliamentarians and representatives of European networks and NGOs were also present.

The TOY for Inclusion partner organisations from CroatiaItalyHungarySloveniaSlovakia and Turkey shared their experiences and key ingredients for success in a lively panel discussion. These included the centrality of the collaboration of different services to better serve the needs of young children and families; the importance of unstructured play in the lives and development of these children; and, the power of relationships between services and families built on trust and respect for diversity.

During the event, we also heard from the team from the Early Childhood Research Centre  at Dublin City University who are conducting an independent impact evaluation of TOY for Inclusion. In their preliminary findings, they have identified key features of impact of the TOY for Inclusion approach, such as: space and location, human and financial resources, support of local authorities, transport and access; community engagement and bottom-up approach; outreaching and inclusion of diverse groups; flexibility; accessibility and integration of services.

ISSA’s Aljosa Rudas, coordinator of the Romani Early Years Network, shared that TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs represent an important meeting point of cultures, languages and religions. They are a place where Roma and non-Roma children and families feel welcome and appreciated. This in a context where only 50% of Roma children in Europe have access to education. Play Hubs are a bridge for them to a better future.

The voices several children active in the Play Hubs were presented through a colourful Pop-up Museum. This event marked the launch of the Pop-up, which will be presented on various other occasions to give onlookers a glimpse of the importance these Play Hubs hold in the communities where they operate.

Geraldine Libreau, Policy Officer responsible for ECEC at DG Education and Culture and coordinator of the Working Group for Early Childhood Education and Care closed the event by saying, “The TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs are an example of meaningful impact reaching all children, including the most marginalized, which is exactly what the European Union is prioritizing in their social and educational policy”.

Photo: ©2020 EU-EP/Emilie GOMEZ

The TOY for Inclusion project is coordinated by ICDI and funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission (KA3) and the Open Society Foundations. To learn more about the project go to