This little one is almost 4 and unfortunately isn’t speaking yet. However when he was given this “taxi” to play with, he shrieked with excitement! Isn’t it amazing how a very simple toy (margarine container with wheels drawn on the side, a bread bag rope, and milk lids) can bring so much joy?
Our role is not just to educate practitioners, but also the parents, about how important it is for children to learn through purposeful play activities. So many parents think rote chanting, colouring, and pencils and worksheets are the only way a child learns. One of the mothers recently complained that when she asked her child what he was learning at school, the child announced that they weren’t doing any learning, they were just playing! I wish more children thought preschool was “just playing” because their learning activities were such fun.
All our activities are focused on the development of skills, rather than just the transfer of knowledge. We do incorporate knowledge in the programme, but ensure that each activity involving that knowledge also develops skills. The children have been learning about squares these past few weeks, and one of the activities they had to do was to make holes with a headless matchstick around a big square and a small square drawn on a polystyrene tray. While reinforcing an understanding of squares, this little one was also developing his finger muscles in preparation for holding a pencil. He is also improving his eye-hand coordination, as he has to follow the line carefully, and is working on his motor planning, because his brain has to decide which muscles must do what, when and in what order. Can you see how important this activity is for formal education? Yet it costs nothing to make and can easily be replaced.
The Singakwenza team’s first trip to Botswana to run Waste 2 Toys training was very successful, thanks to the assistance received from Airlink and NGOs in Maun. Three workshops were run, with 65 delegates, who will be implementing purposeful play with the 927 in their daily care, as well as training at least one more person in what they have learnt.
The first workshop was coordinated by Travel for Impact, and 20 preschool teachers and the Secretary General of the Maun Preschool Association were invited. These delegates absolutely loved the new ideas on how they can equip their classrooms with educational material that they have made themselves out of packaging that is usually thrown away. They were also excited to learn more about the foundational skills that young children need to develop through play. They found that trying each of the activities themselves helped to identify which muscle groups were being used and see which coordination was involved. The “Flick Soccer” game resulted in lots of laughter and some fierce competition, and the teachers were amazed to see that something that was so much fun was developing skills like one-to-one correspondence, eye-hand coordination, index isolation, finger strengthening and an understanding of number.
Children in the Wilderness coordinated the second workshop in Maun, and there was a varied group of delegates, some of whom had travelled up to 300km to get to this training. The delegates were people who are involved in the Eco-Clubs at schools, who work with adult empowerment projects, and who work as teachers. There was a mixture of ages too, and it was wonderful to see the young and the old working together during the activities. The gentleman in the picture below put most of us to shame with his skipping ability, and he was so excited to learn how to make his own rope out of plastic bags to take home. The “constructions” that were made using waste materials were very creative and sparked a lot of discussion, which is what we hope will be replicated in the homes and classrooms of the participants.
We travelled almost four hours from Maun to the village of Khwai, stopping regularly for the elephants who were blocking the road, to run the last workshop. This training was sponsored by Khwai Private Reserve and coordinated by Naletsana Charity Organisation. This small and very rural village had no preschool or primary school, so the children were all sent away to boarding school from the age of 5. Khwai Private Reserve and Naletsana decided they needed to help out and, together with donor funding, have built a beautiful preschool. The Primary School in the village is almost ready too, so the children who attend this preschool will not have to be sent away to school so young. The training was held in the new preschool building and was attended by villagers and staff from Khwai Private Reserve. The workshop was translated into Setswana by the preschool teacher and the new information was very well received by all the participants. In their feedback, the delegates wrote what an eye-opener the training had been, as they had never realized how much a child is learning when it is playing. They expressed delight at the ability to provide their children with more play opportunities, and the villagers now understand the need for a preschool for their children.
We are extremely grateful to Airlink, for their generous sponsorship of our flights to Botswana, and to the NGOs, for the organisation that they did to ensure that we gave the adults in these areas some new ideas and food for thought, and the children will now have more opportunities to learn through purposeful play.