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