A project which observed and documented the experiences of young refugees in Lebanon.

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This Froebel Trust funded study by Dr Sandra El Gemayel looked at how armed conflict and displacement have extremely harmful effects on young children and their families. They constrain children’s opportunities to play and to learn through play.

This research project observed the play of four young Iraqi and Syrian child refugees aged between 4 and 8 years old in the northern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon.

The researcher also spent time observing and interviewing educators in a school for refugee children in Beirut as well as other professionals working with refugee children in Lebanon.

Ahmed climbing on ladders

The study follows a ‘day in the life’ of four Iraqi and Syrian case study refugee children and their families.

Kefas drawing of boat family and house 2

'This is me, my brother and father on a boat, and this is my mother in the kitchen, cooking.'

A drawing by Kefa, 5 year-old Iraqi boy.

Tomas and his cousin playing on their balcony

Tomas and his cousin playing on their balcony.


  • Young refugee children observed in this study had limited or no access to high quality education.
  • Poverty led many families to cohabit in overcrowded, small, unsanitary and sometimes dangerous apartments. This exposed children to a wide range of additional problems that affected their mental and physical health and limited their access to space for play.
  • While all the children observed in this research project had time to play, other resources such as materials, space and play partners were lacking. This limited the children's play opportunities.
  • Despite many hardships, play endured, providing children with a means to escape from their liminal state through media and imagination.