Feb 11, 2020

Play - Sowing the seeds of good leadership skills

A young girl teaching her fellow classmates ludo!
A young girl teaching her fellow classmates ludo!
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a tiny mosquito!” - Shweta Chari, Founder & CEO of Toybank

The statement that Shweta cites in her sensitization speeches when encouraging individuals to drive social change may seem trivial and humorous but it carries great weight. What she implies is that each young individual has opportunities and resources — education, teachers, friends, music, poetry, art, etc. — to make great strides in their life. Think about what you have and what works for you. Don’t waste time mulling over what you don’t have and what doesn’t work for you. Focus on what you got and go make that change well within your lifetime!

Even at Toybank, to achieve Development Through Play, every key stakeholder takes the lead, an initiative and the opportunity in their own unique way to build a better world for others and themselves. This report will give you a peek into play’s role in building leadership skills through updates and stories of children, teachers, Toybank’s full-time team and our extended family of volunteers.

Stories of Change : The little guides!

Life for children in Andheri East’s slum habitation is bleak and mired in poor housing conditions, inadequate civic amenities, insecurity and unstable livelihoods. Our Play Centers are a safe and nurturing haven for them to build positive socio-emotional skills.

I once arrived at the Play Center suffering from mumps. As soon as the children realized this, two boys — Aayush and Rohan (names changed) — assumed my role of a Programme Officer(PO) and took my responsibilities even though I never asked them to. Not only did they ensure that I wasn’t troubled by the class and maintained a decorum but also managed games distribution, calming the children down and seating them properly. Just like a PO’s role, they made groups and helped conduct the Play Session effortlessly.

With this, the kids displayed thoughtfulness, empathy, maturity, discipline and responsibility. Seeing play make responsible little guides of them, the PO was happy to observe the influence all her play sessions, over the past 5 months, have had on her relationship with the children. The fruits of being there for the children consistently and giving them opportunities to develop key skills was strongly reflected in their behavior

- By Jaya Dhokare, Team Toybank


Outreach in November, December 2019 & January 2020

This quarter we worked collaboratively with close to 140 partner facilitators (teachers, caregivers) in implementing our Conscious Play™ methodologies via 1,200+ Play Sessions to reach over 19,000 children (as of 28th January 2020).

Play sessions:

Children taking the lead

According to numerous leadership researchers, individuals who become effective leaders exhibit or develop five core characteristics — innovativeness, empathy, optimism, self-confidence and curiosity (Barthold, Shelby K., "The Emergence of Leadership in Children: The Role of Play, Athletics, and School" (2014). CMC Senior Theses. Paper 859.) While leaders display these traits in their respective professions, children are not too far behind in developing them through their area of specialization — play.

  • Learning leadership and accountability

Children do not always have or aren’t given the opportunity to take responsibilities, which in turn affects their self-confidence. At Toybank’s Play Centers, we use play to inculcate a sense of ownership and responsibility in kids. One such center has a high count of children (more than 50 at times), which makes conducting play sessions a challenge for the PO. To cultivate accountability, the PO appointed a girl and a boy to facilitate the class. They proudly took up the onus of caring for the board games, ensured the session was conducted smoothly and each time there was an argument, sorted it out before the PO could intervene. Soon, the children volunteered to oversee the sessions. They took charge right from handing the games to packing and storing them back neatly. Practising leadership and accountability today will go a long way as adults!

  • Being innovative

Preparing to face uncertainty and change requires ingenuity and flexibility in our thinking and decision-making. Through play, children view problems from different perspectives, troubleshoot and think of inventive ways to solve the problem. The kids at one of our Play Sessions proved this while playing Twister. Nothing could stop them from playing! Not even the missing spinner. They wrote the rules on chits, shuffled them in their palms, picked them out randomly and continued playing.

Although an individual continues to learn vital leadership skills past childhood, the skills learned later are built from the skills learned when young, which only stresses the importance of learning them as a child.

A caregiver’s Conscious role in leading development through play

Developing any kind of life skill, including leadership, is dependent on the environment, social context, timing and other individuals (caregivers, teachers, family, classmates, etc.) that children interact with. This is why Toybank’s Conscious Play™ approach has a crucial role. Over the years, and as suggested by research, our team has observed that the more we interact with children at Play Centers, the deeper we understand their developmental needs. This has led to more quality curation of play sessions to address those needs. In a nutshell, we have started being more mindful of how play experiences have impacted children’s behavioral and mental well-being and used a more conscious approach while integrating play in their lives.

Our partner facilitators across Play Centers are trained to implement this Conscious Play™ approach to optimally use board games and play-based activities to empower children. For example, in Solapur district, a primary school teacher used the game of Lotto or Housie to uniquely teach numbers in English and Marathi. Each time, she announced the number in both the languages, thus reinforcing their learning. Post the session, the children were asked to note down the numbers on their ticket in a book to practice and retain this learning. This game helped children to recognize numbers and listen more attentively for the next number coming up. We saw the children stay patient and focused. We also saw the teacher using the play methodology to enhance their learning of numerical and language skills.

Volunteers leading play

  • In November, we had a massive Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) initiative led by close to 300 corporate employees. They spent an entire day creating meaningful impact in the lives of over 1,000 children at Toybank’s Play Centers. They focused on conducting activities that enhance learning and build skills. These involved playing a mega-sized crossword on a black board, a game of Pictionary, creating butterflies through the origami folding technique, making craft items with paper plates, painting ice-cream sticks, coloring, etc. One of the highlights of the event was an activity conducted to learn the tricks and strategy of solving the Rubik’s Cube. The corporate volunteers printed a step-by-step guide to understand the components of a Cube and how to solve it.

  • In December, our CAS volunteer, Rehan hosted a special learning session on the conservation of mangroves in Mumbai City and the importance of sustainability in our daily lives. He took inspiration from our play sessions and used play through flashcards to instill a sense of scientific inquiry in the children.

  • During our annual fundraiser, Fiesta 2019, our volunteers played an exceptional role in supporting our team. Even though each volunteer came from a different background - a student, a parent, a corporate employee, etc. - each of them like uniquely shaped mosaic pieces came together as one unit ready to support each other, all with the ultimate goal of pulling off the event seamlessly.

Pushing Play Forward

Conscious Play™ has reached so many children - lesser-privileged as well as affluent, teenagers, adults, teachers, principals, etc. We have seen them be happy, learn joyously, think critically and have responsibility for themselves through play.

We hope the stories and the change we’ve highlighted within this report inspire you to continue supporting our work. We couldn’t have built this play-filled and purposeful world for our children without your support. Once again, we are truly grateful and we look forward to strengthening our work along with you.

Thank you and Happy Toybanking!

Outreach in November, December 2019 & January 2020
Outreach in November, December 2019 & January 2020
Children caring for their game boxes!
Children caring for their game boxes!
Children playing twister creatively using chits!
Children playing twister creatively using chits!
Children overjoyed when their teacher joins in!
Children overjoyed when their teacher joins in!
Play-based activities conducted by volunteers!
Play-based activities conducted by volunteers!

Links:

Nov 14, 2019

Play - Enabling children to be critical thinkers

Children exploring ways to stack blocks
Children exploring ways to stack blocks

In this ever growing and evolving world of 21st Century, children need to be equipped beyond a basic checklist of what success and life means. In this age of information and growing diversity, making the right choices & decisions is getting harder and complex. It is important that we be more reflective of our actions individually as well as how they affect society. We, therefore, need our children to be better thinkers, analyze critically and holistically. We need to start honing these 21st century skills from an early age itself.

One of the earliest moments children practice critical thinking is during play time where they explore the concept of cause and effect, trial and error, etc. Why do certain puzzle pieces fit and others don’t? Why do certain block sizes provide a better grip for the tower? Play gives an opportunity for children to experiment and see what happens next and whether there are different paths to achieve a goal.

In this report, we’re excited to share the variety of ways Toybank, through its Play Sessions, builds critical thinking skills.

Stories of Change 

I interacted with five uniquely distinct children during a Play Session. They were talented in their own way and their struggles were also different from each other. We played a puzzle called 'Playing with colors'.

At the onset, each of them found it hard to understand the workings of a jigsaw. They weren’t aware of its self-correcting ability and that they had to try various combinations until they found a matching piece. One child wasn’t even ready to move her hands and simply stared at everyone in the class. One child would play but refused to ask for assistance. One child kept giving up and was anxiously pushing the pieces away and was adamant that this was an impossible task. One child had an issue of hand-eye coordination. One child was very hyper that he kept disturbing the others, not allowing them to play. These behavior patterns are not unfamiliar to us. We see this across our Play Centers and even across most children in our society.

These behavior patterns often emerge as roadblocks to success later on as adults. As a Toybanker, and being a parent as well, I have seen play work wonders. I remember seamlessly discussing, with my son, about winning & losing after a game of football, which otherwise is a difficult conversation to have with a 4 year old. Having this in mind, I took on a challenge to work with these five children and complete the puzzles. Before we began, I told the children four things : 

  • We're all solving the same problem & therefore we’re not alone. 
  • Each of us will solve it differently. So focus on your own set of puzzles and don’t worry about who is doing better 
  • If your classmate needs your help, assist them, but don’t take over, otherwise they won’t have the chance to learn 
  • This game is about trying different combinations. If one doesn’t work, find another piece.

We played four rounds in an hour, and eventually each of them progressed little by little to complete their puzzles. Of course there were times they didn’t follow the instructions, but largely I had observed that they learnt to co-exist with each others capabilities. They had a safe space to be themselves and learn colors, try combinations and succeed at their game. If this can be achieved in an hour of play, imagine a world where all children could grow positively through play. With play, I believe all children would live in and for a better society.

- By Madhulika, Toybank Team Member

Outreach in September, October and November 2019

This quarter, our team worked collaboratively with over 100 partner facilitators (teachers, caregivers) in implementing our play methodologies via 860+ Play Sessions to reach over 10,000 children (as of 6th November, 2019).

Play sessions:

Playing with puzzles is one of the best ways to encourage children to think critically. One such game called ‘Hide n Seek’ has been a real changemaker. It is a 4-piece puzzle with 48 challenges. The game board has animals printed on it, where the goal is to reveal animals displayed in the challenge and strategically hide the other animals using the puzzles. Children are usually hesitant to play this complex game of trial & error which requires strategizing. In order to build their confidence to take risks, be patient, and develop strategic skills, we push kids to play this game. When they solve one challenge at a time, it prepares them to excel in the next challenge.

As reported by a school teacher from our rural project at Solapur district of Maharashtra, the children have become more interested in learning since our intervention began there. Their cognitive skills like memorising, paying attention, problem-solving and critical thinking have increased and out of 10 scholarship applications submitted, 7 children were selected this year.

From August to October 2019, Toybank conducted a case study with 15 preschool children to measure play’s impact on the following skills - Critical Thinking, Following instructions, Collaboration, Perseverance and Expression. 60% of the class exhibited greater inclination to try multiple ways to find solutions. Before play was introduced to them only 20% of the class attempted to explore possibilities. 40% of the class exhibited greater motivation to go out of their way to achieve the goal of a game. Before play was introduced to them only close to 13% of the class attempted to step out of their comfort zones to finish a game.Besides these changes, the attendance also increased. Before the play sessions began 13 - 15 children came to school and with each play session, more children were coming back to class. By the end of the 30-hour playtime across the two months we had an attendance of 28 students.

Play2Smile:

This quarter we opened a new Play2Smile Center at B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children - a paediatric palliative care unit at the hospital. The focus of this unit is to provide care to children from 0 to 18 years of age and their parents. Most children at the unit are undergoing treatment for cancer, congenital conditions, severe illnesses and chronic disorders. The center has been set up and we have provided them with different games and toys like puzzles, art and craft materials, play dough, light and sound toys, jenga, board games like Othello, Chess etc. The toys and games will be used to meet the emotional needs of children and to decrease the behavioural and emotional difficulties that interfere significantly with the child's life. 

Capacity Building:

Since our first workshop in May, once again our team invited Mr. Aamod Karkhanis, the director of NovaVia educational tools and games to teach us some of the new math games launched. This workshop covered more complex mathematical concepts like factors, multiples and fractions. To complement classroom lessons, we were also taught activities that can be conducted using the board-games to further enhance the children’s skills and have a more positive attitude towards math. As shared by one of our team members, “I was scared when I heard that we are having maths game training. But the way Aamod Sir conducted the entire session & the thought put into designing each game completely removed my fear for maths. If I would have had such games in my childhood, I would never be scared of math. I am glad children at our Play Centers will be benefit from these games”.

Thank you for taking time out to read this report. We look forward to your continued support to ensure that all children in India are given this opportunity for early childhood mental well-being.

Thank you and Happy Toybanking!

Every child is a unique explorer
Every child is a unique explorer
Puzzles enriching problem solving skills
Puzzles enriching problem solving skills
Children learning colors via visual storytelling
Children learning colors via visual storytelling
Outreach in September, October and November 2019
Outreach in September, October and November 2019
Playing & learning factors, multiples and fraction
Playing & learning factors, multiples and fraction

Links:

Aug 21, 2019

Play - An opportunity to share & collaborate

Children learning shapes together
Children learning shapes together

Almost all children are possessive about a favorite toy or game. At our Play Centers as well, we have observed that majority of children find it hard to part away from a game and hesitate to invite a friend in playing together or refuse to lend their game to a friend for a little while. This habit is primarily seen in pre-school and if children aren’t inculcated with positive ways of living with others at an early age, their social skills are affected later on as adults.

Children growing up in challenging circumstances, in the 21st Century, need to be able to adapt to new situations, take risks, develop a variety of skills, explore alternatives, share and co-exist with each other. These skills will not only help them navigate through adversities and successes that come their way TODAY, but will prepare them for FUTURE endeavors as well.

In this report, we’re excited to share, how we build social skills in children through play methodologies, as well as highlight how play, through our intervention, brings together individuals from various walks of life to accelerate development in the lives of vulnerable children.

Stories of Change 

At a community center we work in, a group of 4 children refused to play with each other because of a feud that had been going on for a while. They were adamant on playing separately.

An idea sprung up in my mind. I gave them to make a 200-piece jigsaw puzzle which had over 6 types of dinosaurs. Although it was one big puzzle, I told them that they had to make one dinosaur each. They sat at a distance from each other with a huge pile of jumbled up pieces between them. Each with an individual goal in mind, started putting together their dinosaurs. 

As the game progressed, they searched for puzzle pieces with their respective dinosaur’s color and patterns. Gradually, as their dinosaurs took form, the pile in the center grew smaller. Whenever they would find someone else's dinosaur piece they would give it to the other person. They were so engrossed in playing, they unknowingly started to help each other. They started talking about their dinosaurs, which part is missing and whether the other person had seen the missing puzzle piece.

Eventually, when they couldn’t find the edges of their puzzles, they realized that this was all part of one big image. Finally, when they finished the whole puzzle they were very excited and appreciated each other efforts.

- By Toybank's team member.

 

Outreach in June, July and August 2019

This quarter we worked collaboratively with close to 300 partner facilitators in implementing our play methodologies via 800+ Play Sessions to reach over 7,000 children (as of 20th August 2019).

Play sessions:

Over the last 3 months, our focus was on interpersonal skills and eating healthy food through a diverse set of board-games and interactive conversations. It's the monsoon season in India, and many children are at-risk of falling ill due to inadequate sanitation and unhealthy eating habits. We addressed these issues through fruit and vegetable puzzles and flashcards. We also conducted a special coloring session on healthy eating and oral hygiene. We also played games that encourage teamwork and collaboration.

Rural Visit:

We’re thrilled to announce that, our work has kick-started in Latur district of Maharashtra with 16 new Play Centers providing access to quality playtime for over 1000 children.

We also visited Beed and Nanded districts of Maharashtra. We had an entire day of intensive games learning where we took feedback from the teachers regarding facilitation concerns they have had during play sessions. We shared some essential tricks on how to manage a class in a child-friendly manner. We simplified complex games to suit the developing needs of their students, so that they joyfully play and learn. Post this, we visited Play Centers to ensure they're smoothly running.

Awards:

On 19th June, Toybank was honoured as the Gold recipient of the Global Good Awards, UK under the Education category. Our intervention has truly brought unique learning opportunities for at-risk children and above all it engages every child, irrespective of gender, age or impairments. Play is a language all children speak and rightly so, this recognition is a testament to all our stakeholders coming together to accelerate children’s empowerment through play.

Thank you for taking time out to read this report. We look forward to your continued support to ensure that all children in India are given this opportunity for early childhood mental well-being.

Thank you and Happy Toybanking!

The dinosaur puzzle finally bringing them together
The dinosaur puzzle finally bringing them together
Outreach in June, July and August 2019
Outreach in June, July and August 2019
Fun vegetable puzzles to talk about healthy food
Fun vegetable puzzles to talk about healthy food
Teachers learn to use puppets to weave a story
Teachers learn to use puppets to weave a story
Our brilliant team driving change through PLAY!
Our brilliant team driving change through PLAY!

Links:

 
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