May 29, 2019

Play - A foundation for Early Learning

Children learning word building through puzzles
Children learning word building through puzzles

Early education expert Dorothy Strickland said that a child's first learning experience determines a child's attitude toward school for years to come. Current education practices in classrooms are constraining a child's intrinsic curiosity to learn, paving way for boredom, absenteeism, and disinterest in learning. These constraints prohibit children from learning a breadth of skills required to thrive in today's complicated and dynamic reality. Children need relevant skills to help them counteract negative challenges, build self-confidence and positivity to make a difference in their own lives and thus the society at large.

In the areas of Maharashtra that Toybank works in, we have seen learning doubly restricted due to lack of quality play opportunities. Toybank's play-based intervention seeks to bridge this gap and expand learning opportunities for children. Our Play Sessions equip children with life skills and provide for safe and healthy space to be curious, explore alternatives & solve problems while playing board games. Play drives a child's natural ability to learn and does so in a positive and hands-on manner, which academic textbooks and instruction don’t always provide.

Stories of Change

At one of our Play Centers in the slum dwellings of Ambernath, located in Thane district of Mumbai, we planned a special creative session for the children using a fun interactive craft-kit donated to us.

Together with the children we made two paper bag puppets - a bird and a frog and narrated stories about protecting animals. Young Kiran (name changed) volunteered to narrate a story in English. Since most of the children speak fluent Marathi, we encouraged the children to express in a language their most comfortable with. Yet, Kiran wanted to use this puppet to practice English sentences because in school his English teacher used puppets to teach sentence formation. He asked us if he could use this as an opportunity to improve his speaking skills. His classmates were surprised and were teasing him, trying to pull him down. But Kiran proudly and confidently shared the story of an eagle and the importance of protecting it:

"I am an eagle and I live on a hilltop. I eat snakes. Every time I come near humans they cage me. Please do not cage me. If I'm caged, I cannot save your life from snakes"

This creative and imaginative session saw the children creating characters and using storytelling to give out a social message. The puppets allowed them to gesture, make sounds and tell a story without worrying about language barriers. Learning from textbooks only make a difference if children can apply and implement it in their daily lives. Gaining factual knowledge and information is important for scoring well in school, but to make an impact for life children need to actively engage with information and have a deeper understanding that allows them to connect concepts and skills, apply their knowledge to different situations, and spark new ideas. (Learning through Play: a review of evidence by Zosh J.M et al. The Lego Foundation, DK. )

(Our Outreach numbers are in the image below)

Play sessions :

March is the month of examinations and April bringing in the summer holidays at schools, this quarter we focused and regularized our engagements at shelter homes and community centers. Unlike school where there are clearly defined age groups, fixed schedules and curriculums in classrooms, shelter homes and community centers have a mixed age group of children attending a single play session, children come to the centers depending on work timings of parents and have a semi-structured curriculum. This irregularity makes it difficult to gauge whether the children are continually receiving quality learning and recreational engagements. Toybank’s Programme Officers with volunteer support have put in efforts to regularize Play Sessions at these centers. This has led to better partnerships and the children have started to explore challenging games out of their comfort zones.

Capacity building:

This quarter the Toybank team actively reflected and built on the quality of our programme by nurturing partner relationships, learning innovative methods to teach math-based games and attending workshops. Aamod Karkhanis, the director of Nova Via educational tools and games conducted a workshop for our team to train us into using the math-based games designed by him. The workshop was a treasure of learning methods and interesting historical facts about math and mathematicians. We strongly believe in the need to incorporate children’s learning abilities and styles in order to make efficient use play to empower children.

Our team gained a fresh perspective on child behavior through a hearing awareness programme conducted by Montfort Care and The Stephen High School for the hearing and speech impaired. We realized that sometimes children don’t pay attention or isolate themselves because a hearing loss affects their classroom interactions and not because they’re mischievous or want to avoid people.

Our team went on a two day off-site, which was a major team building activity. We identified four essential goals to achieve Toybank’s vision of happy childhoods for better futures: Communication with impact, Collaboration, Ownership, and Execution Excellence. We also played outdoor games, spent quality time getting to know each other and collaboratively set goals to achieve for the year.

Celebrations :

We celebrated the International Day of Happiness uniquely by hosting an online haiku contest where participants described their #HappyPlayMoments. Alongside this, we organized a small distribution event where 70 children danced cheerfully, learned about colors and animals through flash cards and puppets and finally took home with them a stuffed toy to keep as their own.

On 28th May we will celebrate World Play Day with children of sex workers. During the two hour session, we will ask them to reflect on what makes them special and they will express this by making their own jigsaw puzzles. We will also play several board games to sensitize them about Play as a right to connect, have fun, explore, move and participate.

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! 

Puppet making and Play through Stories
Puppet making and Play through Stories
Outreach in March, April and May 2019
Outreach in March, April and May 2019
Hearing loss effects on academic development
Hearing loss effects on academic development
Our program officer teaching alphabet blocks
Our program officer teaching alphabet blocks
Our team went on a major team building offsite
Our team went on a major team building offsite

Links:

Mar 4, 2019

Play to be patient, be kind & be better!

Post a massive session at our rural Play Center
Post a massive session at our rural Play Center

'Play' is often defined as children’s work. It is through play that children organize and make sense of the world. 'Play' also helps children unwind from the tensions in their lives. It brings out children’s creativity and so much more. Many of the skills children need as adults to compete in a global economy are not easily taught in a typical classroom setting, yet play offers ideal experiences for learning the 6 Cs: collaboration, communication, content knowledge, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence, according to the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

Toybank allows children opportunities for freely chosen, open-ended play that have a lasting impact on development and benefit them in their future endeavors as adults. This is done through a play-based curriculum that builds the ability of children to identify and access choices that will enable them to improve their life opportunities. 

Stories of Change:

Sagar (name changed), a hyperactive kid; who always ran in and out of the classroom came into the notice of Toybank Field Officer (FO). The FO observed him for 2 sessions with the hope that he might sit and play. He participated in the ice-breaking activity but refused to sit to play Board Games. In the third Play Session, the Field Officer conducted a theme-based activity on Anger Management - Role Play.  In this activity, the kids were given a situation and had to act accordingly. The situation was of a sibling making a drawing and younger sibling spoiling it. The siblings have to portray 2 characters- one where both of them lose temper and another where they control their anger and are empathetic. After the activity was over, Sagar got up and claimed that no one follows the second act. He shared that other students in the classroom bullied him and that is why he is always angry at everyone. 

The Field Officer sat with him and quietly chatted with him. All the while, Sagar was patiently listening and understanding what the FO was trying to explain.

After thinking about it for a while, he voluntarily sat for playing Board Games, which he usually ran away from. The FO was very happy. She gave Count-N-Link to Sagar, which helps in Alphabet & Number recognition. Initially, he refused to play with that particular game. Although, he took the game when he saw that others were accepting the games given to them, as per the rules of the Play Session. Sagar sat in one place till he had joined all the pieces, this was also a surprise for the FO as Sagar never liked sitting in one place. As soon as he finished the game, he rejoiced and smiled widely.

A kid, who was hyperactive and refused to sit at one place for a long time - because of the Play Session module of Activities and Games - understood the value of expressing and its appropriate use and developed the skill of patience. 

This is what goes around during the Toybank Play Sessions, where the children imbibe life skills which are necessary for them to become better people.

Outreach in December 2018, January and February 2019:

The months of December, January and February have been filled with action as always.

With a total of 390 Play Sessions, impacting 9316 children, the sessions were focused on developing their cognitive and social skills. Through the 11 Teacher Training conducted, 260 teachers were empowered with the Power of Play.

2 Football Training Sessions were conducted by a dedicated Toybank Volunteer in these months where more than 25 of our students participated enthusiastically. 1 Awareness Campaign was conducted for a School to sensitize 80 children. The students reciprocated with beautiful ideas of how they plan to work with children at-risk through Play. 
3 Volunteer Inductions were conducted where 11 young volunteers were sensitized about the Power of Play and were given Code of Conduct during Play Sessions. 2 game distributions were held where 282 children were given toys and games to call their own. 23 new Play2Smile (P2S) centers were set up by collaborating with a children's hospital where more than 300 children who come for getting treated are impacted on a regular basis. P2S centers have been opened in various wards of the hospital.

We have been able to work relentlessly and continuously with all our children, thanks for the amazing support we receive from friends like you through the Global Giving network. 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! 

Teachers enjoying a training by our Field Leader
Teachers enjoying a training by our Field Leader
Awareness Campaign at a School
Awareness Campaign at a School
Developing Patience by solving a Puzzle
Developing Patience by solving a Puzzle
Children being taught through Play by a Teacher
Children being taught through Play by a Teacher

Links:

Dec 4, 2018

Play and Play till you Learn!

Making 'Play' inclusive
Making 'Play' inclusive

An American Academy of Pediatrics’ clinical report, published in August 2018, quotes from Robert McElvaine’s, The Great Depression: “The most powerful way children learn isn’t only in classrooms or libraries but on playgrounds and in playrooms.”

'Play' is essential for the development of social, emotional, language, and cognitive skills—and play is threatened by academic expectations, mobility limitations, and screens. Today’s academic and social atmosphere is filled with academic expectations, mobility limitations, and digital screens. This restricts exploration and wholesome learning. 'Play' is vital in breaking out of these monotonous mundane lifestyles and help develop social, emotional, language, and cognitive skills, which in turn buildwell-roundedd children.

Outreach in September, October and November 2018: 

The months of September, October and November witnessed a massive boost in advocating and propagating the Power of Play. 

369 Toybank Play Sessions have been conducted in the last 3 months impacting 9344 children in urban and rural regions of Maharashtra.

4 Special Play Sessions were conducted which impacted 209 children. 2 Football Sessions were conducted for 49 children. 1 session was conducted by Dale Carnegie’s team that addressed the importance of effective communication and soft skills to 60 of our children.
1 Special Session was held on Children’s Day, where 100 children. The day was filled with activities and games for these children.

177 Teachers have been trained through 7 Teacher Trainings to inculcate Play in the overall development of children. The teachers were sensitized about the Power of Play through interactive sessions about free play activities and Board Games.

Replacement of games and play material was done in 50 Urban and 8 Rural Toybank Play centers to restore the stock with new and innovative toys and games.

Toybank conducted 8 PLAY Impact Awareness Campaigns for 554 individuals from different backgrounds.

Volunteer Action Events: 

A multinational corporate organizes an annual event ‘Impact Day’ in the month of November. Every year they partner with Toybank to conduct Play Sessions at the Toybank Play Centers. This event is a huge opportunity for Toybank to distribute games to a large number of children in a day. 7 Play Sessions were conducted by 112 employees in 5 Toybank Play centers. 308 children experienced a magical day through this!

Kerala Flood Relief work:

Toybank along with the support from Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders, initiated a large scale effort to collect, pack and deliver toys to flood affected Anganwadis of Kerala in August 2018. HealthSpring, a health care provider helped us in setting up collection booths at their centers spread across Mumbai, where donors could have easy access to donate the toys.
15 collection boxes garnered game donations from caring citizens across Mumbai! Toybank also purchased over 600 brand new games which provide intellectual stimulation along with fun.

Awards and Recognitions: 

We are also thrilled to announce that Toybank has been honored with the Spirit of Humanity Awards in the Child Care Category making us the National Winners 2018. It was a grand moment for the whole team! We are truly proud of supporters like you, who help us make a meaningful impact in the lives of so many children.

Moment of Change:

Amey (name changed), a child at our play center in Mankhurd has mild cerebral palsy, which is a physical condition that affects muscle movement and coordination. When he plays, he refuses to use his left hand because he assumes it doesn’t function at all. Although, his left hand simply functions and is less stronger than his right hand. 

During one of the play sessions, Amey was playing Jumping Monkey with another kid. The game involves a tree, a catapult, a couple of monkeys and bananas. Usage of both hands are required to play - one to hold the catapult in place and the other to flip the monkey onto the tree. Whoever manages to get all four monkeys on the tree gets the bananas. 

Amey wasn’t using his left hand and struggled to play the game. He saw the other player getting the monkeys on the tree with ease using both hands. After observing for a while, he brought his left hand ahead but was hesitant to use it. We encouraged him a bit to use it to at least hold the catapult’s base. He tried it out and successfully managed to get his monkeys on the tree. Only until he was encouraged to try it out did he realize that the left hand did function.

These small achievements mean the world to differently-abled children. Disability is a state of mind. Play enabled him to recognize his abilities. At Toybank, we recognize inclusivity and opportunity in play. We encourage kids to try different games and figure out what they are best able to achieve.

Learning to Play the game!
Learning to Play the game!
'Power of Play' training for Teachers
'Power of Play' training for Teachers
Toybank were the National Winners 2018!
Toybank were the National Winners 2018!
Using 'Play' to dissolve gender biases
Using 'Play' to dissolve gender biases
 
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