Jan 5, 2021

#PlayingIsLearning-Bridging learning gaps

Children revise and recall parts of various plants
Children revise and recall parts of various plants

With 2020 wrapped up, our human spirit is reflecting upon a year that one would rather forget. So that we learn from it and use the experience to make us stronger. We also reflected about how our children held through all that they lost out on and how their caregivers, our team and our dear supporters stepped up to back them

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2020, 60% children now have access to smartphones. 1 in 10 households have bought a smartphone. However, access to a smartphone doesn’t ensure quality learning and the digital divide further widens the learning gap, especially for at-risk children. The report also highlights inadequate learning materials out of which most are textbooks and the rest dependent on smartphones and  internet connectivity.WhatsApp has been a far more popular and accessible medium for transferring learning materials and, therefore, Toybank disseminates its Play2Learn Kit through this medium. Caregivers from across the country, whether teachers struggling with the digital medium or parents who aren’t equipped financially or inadequately educated to support their children's learning needs, have found our kit beneficial.

Aligning our Play2Learn Kit with the national curriculum

With schools being shut for over 9 months since March 2020, our children’s play and learning opportunities have been hampered. While there is better news for high school children with schools reopening in some states of India, the younger children—preschool through primary grades—are still unable to access quality learning as they should in their formative years. To bridge these gaps, our Play2Learn Kit is aligned to academic topics in the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) curriculum and Diksha App. The kit is made for various age groups and learning levels ensuring that all children learn.

Making up for the online learning divide, our activities equip our children with a variety of skills and topics including science experiments, numerical and linguistic skills, geography, history, environmental studies, self-awareness and healthy habits. This alignment supports tutors as they do not have to uproot their lesson plans, but employ the kit as an aid. Children are able to independently learn even after the online class ends. Integrating play into learning has boosted their engagement and students who erstwhile struggled to grasp concepts online are more proactive.

Story of Resilience

How Divya overcame her fear of learning loss  

As Miss Sunanda from our government school partner rightly says, “Play is a medium that can help students learn unknowingly.” This couldn’t be truer in Divya’s case. The 13-year-old was a dedicated student who submitted her school assignments on time and proactively asked her teacher what to study each day. But as school remained shut, she feared about not being able to catch up with the syllabus at the same pace as her peers. Toybank’s Program Officers (PO) encouraged her to remain positive and motivated her to complete her homework as well as playsheets.  

Divya’s fears subsided once she engaged with our activities that fed her inquiring attitude to learn. She even tries to add little design elements to them before submission. One such activity, Types of Farming Word Search, enabled her to discover the different types of farming. On her next visit to her family’s or neighboring farms, she was able to identify the various types and their purposes.

Benefits of our Play2Learn Kits

  • Accessible and self-directed learning
  • Safe spaces at home
  • Staying active during the lockdown
  • Stimulating learning environment
  • Outlet for normal development, autonomy-building and exploration
  • Reduce the severity of potential trauma caused by fear and uncertainty
  • Promote opportunities for early learning and responsive caregiving

Outreach in September, October and November 2020

We have ensured that on a daily basis, 50,982 children in 6 states and 1 Union Territory of India have continued to learn through play with our Play2Learn Kit. We have guided and supported 2,133 teachers and 7,385 parents through 423 support groups, as of 30 November, 2020. 

Being a buddy in need

While children are losing out on social interactions during the pandemic, Toybank’s Buddy Program is providing them a circle of friendship, learning and growth to help them deal with isolation, confusion and everyday hardships. The program involves our volunteers playing the Big Buddy and conducting online Play2Learn Sessions, sharing, expressing, indulging in hobbies together. The sessions are all about the synergy between our children and volunteers and building resilience through new skills and positive experiences.

Bridging the gap with conversations

Every revolution begins with words. For play to get the importance it deserves and to bring a paradigm shift in people’s mindset where play is integrated into society at the subconscious level, we have started Toybank Bridge Series Webinars. We had our children and student volunteers share their experiences during the pandemic and their expectations from the future in our debut webinar Gen T: The Generation that Thrives—In Conversation with the Children of the Future. The second webinar Reimagining Child-friendly Spaces—In Conversation with Ratan Batliboi and Arzan Khambatta discussed why children need to be included in decisions while building child-friendly cities.

Play and learning as one

‘Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.’

We firmly believe in the all-pervading nature of Play. While it teaches important 21st-century life skills to children, it also enhances their academic learning. As we prioritize education, play must not and cannot be deprioritized. Each one of us, including you, are key to promoting play, reimagining learning and making happier childhoods and stronger children!

With the New Year here, we hope to see a renewed attitude towards play. And we also wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and playful 2021!

Thank you and Happy Toybanking!

Children identify and sort word tenses in 3 bowls
Children identify and sort word tenses in 3 bowls
Outreach from September to November 2020
Outreach from September to November 2020
Learning a healthy routine one loop at a time
Learning a healthy routine one loop at a time
Divya facing her challenges through Word Search!
Divya facing her challenges through Word Search!
Building basic skills of numbers and colors
Building basic skills of numbers and colors

Links:

Oct 7, 2020

Every Child Resilient through Toybank's PlayAtHome Kit

Colorful and interactive math learning
Colorful and interactive math learning

Bhakti (name changed) avoided studying English and struggled with linguistic skills-based activities. For her, and millions of students from marginalized communities, a sudden shift from traditional classrooms to online schooling due to the pandemic has caused a weaning interest in studies and difficulty in grasping concepts. That apart, only 24% of households own smartphones, and a meager 11.5% have access to a computer and the internet, further widening the learning gaps. As an OECD report points out, low schooling quality before COVID-19 meant students learned inadequately and a disrupted academic year with prolonged remote learning are exacerbating this learning crisis.

Our partner teacher Harshal Phule (Latur district, Maharashtra), states, “The new and unfamiliar method of online learning has caused a lag in studies for our children. Internet disconnection has massively set back their progress as they end up missing an entire online class during power cuts which they can’t access again”.


Building resilience through PlayAtHome kits


Our Toybank PlayAtHome Kit has ensured that children can learn at any hour of the day and revisit it as many times as needed. Our team sends playsheets twice a day through the week. From mental relief and engagement, our PlayAtHome Kit now also focuses on bridging learning gaps. The downloadable and self-directed playsheets take excessive internet dependence out of the equation and allow children to learn in a more practical and independent way.

We also witnessed our children solve problems creatively when resources to do the activities weren’t available. Kids who didn’t have crayons at home, made color out of plant juices. The playkit encourages children to take initiative, overcome obstacles that impede their development and face challenges that will help them build resilience in the long run. Like Harshal Phule noted, “Giving the children control of their learning makes it more exciting for them. The activities on shape recognition, for example, encouraged children to practically draw, cut the shapes, and color by themselves.”


Benefits of our PlayAtHome initiative include:

  • Accessible and self-directed learning
  • Safe spaces at home
  • Staying active during the lockdown
  • Stimulating learning environment
  • Providing outlet for normal development, autonomy-building and exploration
  • Reduce the severity of potential trauma caused by fear and uncertainty
  • Supporting caregivers to focus on their responsibilities
  • Promote opportunities for early learning and responsive caregiving

Outreach in June, July & August 2020
(as of 28th August 2020)

We have ensured that on a daily basis, 48,887 children have continued to learn through play with our PlayAtHome kit. We have guided and supported 1,998 teachers and 6,871 parents through 402 support groups. 

We have come together with our existing collaborators, who have brought in new ones. Thus, we have formed a chain that has empowered us to take our interventions beyond the state of Maharashtra and reach out to the children in Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Ladakh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. To continue building more resilient and happy childhoods, we look forward to forming a similar nexus of old supporters and new ones through them. Strength in numbers, like it’s said.


The New Education Policy, finally recognizing Play-based learning

Our play approach, which has focused on discovery and participative learning, has also finally been visualized in the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) by the Union Cabinet. With a greater focus on experiential learning, under the new policy, the pedagogy will aim for holistic development of students by way of reducing curricular content and enhancing critical as well as creative thinking. Through multifaceted learning that includes numeracy, literacy, scientific and mathematical concepts, resilience-building activities, good personal hygiene and habits to stay healthy and safe, the PlayAtHome Kit enhances holistic learning of our children.

The NEP acknowledges the significance of fun and interactive learning at the early childhood stage and that a strong base of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) will promote better overall learning, development, and well-being. Toybank’s Play program has been working towards this for the past 16 years by curating play sessions and now the PlayAtHome kit through a needs based and age-appropriate lens.


Support Play to make #EveryChildResilient

“The true object of all human life is play.”

Crises have the tendency to make children grow up faster. Toybank’s endeavor is to ensure they remain children no matter what. Learning and playing must not stop for them. You, our dearest supporters, will enable us to continue providing mental relief and learning to our children for years to come.

Together, with you we look forward to strengthening our reach and building stronger and resilient children.
Hope you are all in the best health and spirits.

Thank you and Happy Toybanking!

Hands-on learning of manmade and natural resources
Hands-on learning of manmade and natural resources
Outreach from June to August 2020
Outreach from June to August 2020
Children discussing good and bad eating habits
Children discussing good and bad eating habits
Bowling and staying active while social distancing
Bowling and staying active while social distancing
Children color words to find hidden sentences
Children color words to find hidden sentences

Links:

Jun 9, 2020

#PlayAtHome - Toybank's Covid-19 Relief Approach

Drawing Word Search and solving it creatively
Drawing Word Search and solving it creatively

COVID-19 and its impact on children’s mental well-being 

The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped at-risk children in India the hardest. School shutdown, separation from friends, uncertainty, anxiety and lack of safe spaces are jeopardizing their mental and social-emotional well-being.

As social distancing and maintaining hygiene habits cater to our physical safety, Resilience will give children the power to bounce back from mental stress. This innate power to rise against adversity needs to be developed during formative years to reap its benefits for a lifetime. This can be perfectly built through Play while problem solving, persevering till the end goal, patience while taking turns and doing one’s best even in difficulty. Toybank strongly believes Play can build in every child, the vitality to combat adversity.

 

Toybank's #PlayAtHome initiative

"Play is food for the child's mind. Let it not go hungry"

During the lockdown, children have been away from their happy and safe spaces, learning opportunities and their social support system—peer groups and teachers. From spending time at our Play Centers, they are cooped up in their homes, which are often one-room facilities with heightened risks of infection and distress. This became the reality for 66.6% households in Maharashtra’s slum habitations and the 20 million at-risk children in the state. A respite was immediately the need of the hour. Overnight, children were thrown into the throes of economic hardships, isolation and fear of an uncertain future.

Our team immediately devised an alternative plan to provide Play to our children at their homes, so that they will emerge from this crisis unscathed. It’s crucial that the socio-emotional progress and mental well-being in our children is not reversed due to the lockdown. For routine-like normalcy, meaningful engagement and mental stimulation, we are delivering carefully-curated digital #ToybankPlayAtHomeKits to them through support groups with our partners, on WhatsApp.

Children have taken to these kits with the same excitement they have at our Play Centers.“I played them back-to-back for two-three days. I like games that make me move,” says Parth (name changed) who misses being on his toes and is now enjoying our Tail the Animal and Listening Game the most. While for Niharika (name changed), Word Search puzzles are the most fun. “Every time she recognizes a letter and finds words by herself, she is delighted. She even got creative and found words that weren’t on the list,” beams her parent. Since the children can’t take printouts of our Word Search puzzles, they draw the grid on their notebooks and go word hunting. They are not letting lack of supplies stop them and improvising as they go.

 

Story of Resilience

Ever since the lockdown, most parents are struggling to keep children meaningfully engaged, including Shamita's mother Vanshika (names changed). However, our Playsheets have ensured Shamita stays mentally stimulated. "They allow her to do age-appropriate activities keeping her interest and enthusiasm alive even during this lean period. Her mind is curious at all times," Vanshika tells us.

Through the Playsheets, Shamita bonds with her brother, developing social skills despite being away from their peers. The siblings enjoy healthy competition while playing. “They become extremely creative and try to think beyond the instructions; like, when they need to cut shapes, they think about all the possible ones other than what’s suggested,” Vanshika divulges. Before the lockdown, the duo had different school timings and interests. Even though they didn’t fight, they never did things together before". These PlaySheets help them think for and help each other; they end up doing the activities together most of the time. "They also learn newer academic things in a fun manner. It feels good seeing this happen,” Vanshika concludes.


Outreach in February, March & April 2020

Prior to the lockdown, from February to March we had over 550+ Play Sessions for our 56,000+ children across urban and rural Maharashtra (as of 31st March, 2020).

With the mandate of social distancing, April onwards, we started providing two Playsheets daily to our children via support groups of parents and teachers on WhatsApp. On a daily basis, we are reaching out to 15,468 children through 952 teachers and 3,082 teachers via 180 support groups (as of 30th April 2020).


Support Play to make #EveryChildResilient

The mental relief that play brings for at-risk children’s mental well-being deserves as much attention as other forms of Covid-19 relief efforts. It’s crucial that they stay happy, stimulated and stress-free to navigate stressful circumstances with confidence and resilience.

Toybank’s efforts are invested in ensuring exactly this, through our play methodology. We are determined to reach every child, especially and with urgency during this crisis and to plug its harmful long-term effects. We have had your steadfast support in building this purposeful World of Play for our children. Together, with you we look forward to strengthening our reach.

Hope you are all in the best health and spirits.

Thank you and Happy Toybanking!

Toybank's #PlayAtHome kit's outreach
Toybank's #PlayAtHome kit's outreach
The Play-Way to a healthy routine that sticks
The Play-Way to a healthy routine that sticks
Happiness found in shapes and colors in a lockdown
Happiness found in shapes and colors in a lockdown
Sorting skills and fine motor development in Play
Sorting skills and fine motor development in Play
In play, children express so much more
In play, children express so much more

Links:

 
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