Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children

by The Opentree Foundation
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Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
Mental Well-being through play for 56,000 children
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

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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!

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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

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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

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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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Organization Information

The Opentree Foundation

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Toybank
Project Leader:
Shweta Chari
Mumbai, Maharashtra India
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