In the middle of war in Ukraine, UNICEF helps create the rarest of things: a safe place for children to play.

A Ukrainian child becomes a refugee almost every single second. Children are walking long distances and spending nights in the freezing cold. Many have seen and heard shelling and destruction.  

With so many children in danger, what difference can soft toys and building blocks make? When their homes aren’t safe and there’s no playground in sight, this is where they go. 

They play in an art centre turned refugee centre 

As families flee the devastation in Ukraine, neighbouring countries are welcoming them with open arms. These children are playing in an art centre turned refugee centre in Moldova. 

The walls are covered with colourful drawings and the floor is littered with toys. It provides a place to rest and play for children on the move. 

Nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have been displaced from their homes.
After fleeing war in Ukraine, children draw in an art centre turned into a refugee shelter in Moldova. © UNICEF/UN0608171/Modola

They play with building blocks 

Building blocks are much more than toys for children in crisis. Play is a moment of freedom for a child forced to leave everything they know behind. A chance to feel normal in the chaos of a refugee centre. A way to make friends and start to rebuild from incredible loss.   

Blue Dots – Child and Family Support Hubs – provide a safe, welcoming space to rest, play and simply be a child. A place filled with people who’ll help you trace missing family, give you psychosocial care after your traumatic journey and the essential supplies you need to go on. 

UNICEF and partners have set up these critical safe spaces along borders in neighbouring countries for children and families fleeing Ukraine.  
A social worker plays with Ukrainian refugee children at a UNICEF-supported Blue Dot in Moldova. This safe space has been set up for little ones to play and be children again. © UNICEF/UN0610996/Modola

“I love working with children and to see them happy in their environment,” says Tatiana, who works with children at one of three Blue Dot centres in Moldova. 

“This is the job that I do and that I feel it's important to do, especially in these times when these children come from difficult experiences.”  

At a time when their world has been abruptly turned upside down, it’s so important that children have a safe place to play. Please donate today to help provide life-saving supplies and protection for families on the move.
Ivan (right) is happy to be at the Blue Dot child-friendly space at the border crossing in Moldova. In the future, he plans to become an archaeologist. © UNICEF/UN0610001/Vladimir

They play in train stations 

Children laugh and play with colourful toy trucks. But they’re not on holiday – they're fleeing a war. This waiting area in a train station in Ukraine has been converted into a safe space for children.  

Mothers soothe their babies, rocking them to and fro. Mattresses line the floor and parents try to make their children as comfortable as possible in a setting that is very far from the homes they know. These children and families have been living here for weeks. 

UNICEF is setting up child-friendly spaces and has provided learning materials for art, play, reading and emotional support in 29 metro stations in Ukraine where children are staying.  
A waiting area in a train station in Ukraine has been converted into a mother and baby space for families fleeing the war. © UNICEF/UN0606577/Moskaliuk

While some families are met by friends or relatives at the next stage of their journey, others must find their own way to safety. Sadly, many children are arriving in border countries on their own, putting them at heightened risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. 

UNICEF and partners have set up safe spaces in Moldova, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Belarus. Blue Dots provide children and families at the border with: 
  • clean water and hygiene supplies. 
  • counselling and psychosocial support. 
  • child-friendly spaces, allowing children to rest and play. 
  • warm clothing and blankets.  
This is not just a place for children to play. It gives parents caregivers to rest and access support after their long journey. All while knowing that their children are cared for. 

Every child deserves to play and be safe. Your donation can help provide life-saving supplies and protection for the children of Ukraine.  
Sivlana plays with her daughter Milana, three, at a friend’s house after fleeing war in Ukraine. © UNICEF/UN0608158/Modola

They play in a friend’s home in a foreign country 

At a time when little Milana’s world has been turned upside down, the chance to simply be a child again is so important. Here, Milana is playing with her mum at a friend’s home. 

When war broke out in Ukraine, the family’s friend pleaded for them to leave everything behind and come to their home in Moldova. 

“The explosions kept on coming closer,” says Milana’s father. “My younger daughter Milana does not understand what is going on. But my older children do, and it is frightening.”  

“Many Ukrainians who have fled our country are not as lucky. They don’t have a new home to go to,” says Milana’s mother, Sivlana.  
A child therapist plays with Dasha, four, inside a tent at a UNICEF-supported Blue Dot centre near the border crossing in Moldova. © UNICEF/UN0609220/Modola

For the last 75 years, UNICEF has delivered for children in the world's worst and most urgent emergencies, and we’re not stopping now.  

Across Ukraine’s neighbouring countries, our donors are helping us deliver for children and families:  
  • ‘Blue Dot’ safe places at borders to rest, play and escape the chaos of their long journey. To draw, sing and talk to other children.   
  • Someone to help deal with trauma. Someone to tell if you’ve lost your family. Someone to help you find them.   
  • Supplies for those who’ve left everything behind: clean water and hygiene kits, nutrition supplies, baby food, diapers, warm clothes and blankets, cloths and pads to manage periods.
No matter what, no matter where, children must be protected from violence. UNICEF won’t stop until every child is safe.  

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