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ANCHOR: Modifying play grounds to become parenting centers

ANCHOR is an initiative with the goal of enhancing psycho-social development for by actively engaging parents, children, play areas and teaching communities as partners. Through the initiative, children 's play grounds will be modified to serve dual purpose of meeting places for parents and play areas for children. Not only will parents actively take part in child's play but also meet their peers weekly to support one another while their children are supported to play by trained staff. The parents will also act as paraprofessional ambassadors who will reach out to preschools, kindergartens and community play areas to mobilize other parents and teachers to actively support psycho-social development of children.

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Anchor's aim:
ANCHOR’s main goal is to enhance psycho-social development for children by actively engaging parents, children, play areas and teaching communities as partners.

Under nutrition is widespread in Uganda, and this affects all economic groups, with 44% stunting in the middle wealth quintile, 43% in the lowest quintile, and 25% in the highest quintile which means that the children to these mothers are also vulnerable and its attributed to improper child care and neglect.

Anchor therefore proposes to reach out to the middle class mothers (primary target) who can access the play grounds, these mothers will then form a club of child care ambassadors who can reach out to schools and the rest of the community (secondary target).

The ambassadors will help to instigate creative play in schools where the children to mothers who cannot afford the play centres get a chance to play. Anchor also plans to partner with organisations like Right to Play which have started public play grounds so that we can reach out to the mothers who cannot access the commercial play grounds.





Responses from the teachers of kindergartens about child health and play



Perceptions of teachers about an ideal school for children below 5 years?
 
One with playing tools, a good instructor, Clean and big compound. One with a conducive environment, play materials and having qualified teachers. Through education. Medical care.
 
What do you think are the best ways to stimulate proper learning in children below five years?
  • Proper guidance
  • Not beating them or scaring them up.
  • Using qualified teachers
  • Providing them with play materials
  • Improving on the classroom environment like putting up learning charts. 
What do you think is the best way to engage busy parents in the learning of their child?
Give enough care and time like that received from the day care.
Invite parents on class days to assess the progress of their children 

As a teacher, what are your views of a healthy child?
  • One who gets good feeding.
  • One who uses clean utensils
  • One who puts on clean clothes
  • One who showers well.
  • One who is free from diseases
  • One who is physically fit. 

What is your view about child play, is it important?
  • Playing boasts their mental capacity and understanding
  • Helps them make friends
  • They learn sharing skills
  • They learn to help each other (social skills and exercise) 

How do you think children should be engaged in play activities?
  • Keep good control and supervision
  • Encouraging them to participate in different activities
  • Instructing them to creative play
  • Conducting regular activities which involve all the children. 

Phase 1: Responses from the parents: Perceptions about health and child play

The hopes and dreams parents have for their children

Children to be success full, attain a good education, keep alive and healthy, and get good jobs and happy marriage partners.

 “I want them to be successful and well behaved. Have a good health, education, social life and always eating a balanced diet”
 
If you had the chance to erase anything about your child’s health, what would it be?

Erase every bad thing. All bad diseases. No sicknesses not even a simple flue. Junk foods.
 
“Children in nursery schools should be playing not doing exams, exams stress the young children; therefore I would erase exams in nursery schools”
 
What would be your view of a healthy and a smart child?
 
It can also be one who can properly breastfeed. One who is outspoken, open minded and fearless. Doesn’t forget easily. Intelligent; Does not easily fall sick; One who responds well to all environments and very active. One who is not sick and overweight.
 
What would you do to ensure your child is healthy and smart?

By ensuring proper breast feeding. Make him eat well. Keeping good hygiene. Feeding them well on balanced diet with all nutrients. Provide a good environment and surrounding. Engage them in many sporting activities and not giving them junk foods.
 
What do you look for when enrolling your child in a pre-school?
  • Health environment
  • Religious denomination of the school
  • Security and care of the teachers
  • Accessibility of the school
  • Historical background of the school
  • Hygiene, environment and the kind of people at the school.
  • Care, well established and hygienic school
  • I wouldn’t consider academics
  • One which does many sports activities.
  • Qualified teachers 
What do you think is the best way to get involved in the learning of your child?
 
Through sports. Reading and presenting charts to the child. Doing homework together. Taking walks with the children. Doing with them homework. I would teach them what they have to know and every stage of development. Doing homework together. Monitoring their children. Play with their children. And also read and write together.
 
How do you think children should be engaged in play activities?
Create a conducive environment, provide toys and also take them to places to play and interact with other people.
 
How would you encourage other parents to stimulate and take good care of their children?
 
Watching sports together. Providing a good environment. Listen to music on radio together. Getting them to play with other children. Taking them for games. Taking them for tours. Watching cartoons together. Make their children to eat well and play hard. They should learn and understand their kids, know what they want and give them time every day. Also try to ensure quality hygiene, mental health and physical growth. Always get together and monitor their activities
 
If given a chance to become a child care ambassador, where would you go to reach out to as many parents as you can?
On TV. Radios. School visitation days. Play grounds. Streets and roads. Churches
 
Phase 1: Responses from the management of play grounds:


How would you define an ideal playground for children, which services would it provide?
 
  • One that is clean and secure.
  • One that is near a cinema hall, shopping Center, restaurant and also interesting to the kids with lots of play materials.
 
What the managers think about the idea of Anchor;

The idea is good. Most parents would welcome it but it should be timed.
 
“Some parents leave their kids with maids while at the play grounds and others may seem to be busy therefore you need a way to engage them”
 
“I think the parents won’t be able to pay attention since they would be monitoring the playing of their kids” (From the observations the parents had to attend to the children while playing since there are no play therapists to help the children).
 
What would be the best way to implement such an initiative?

Through posters and adverts on the playground.
 
“Use someone who is so friendly to children and can easily and freely interact with the children”
 
We conclude that the current commercial play grounds leave play to the responsibility of the parents who also sometimes delegate to the maids. Anchor therefore proposes to introduce play therapists who are friendly to children who will take the children through creative play while the parents are engaged in a discussion about child rearing and development without worrying about their children.

The discussions with the parents should be timed, interactive and fun since the parents seem to be busy. This will help to increase participation.

Update November 11

Importance of play: How to engage play grounds

Many adults think of play as separate from formal learning which should not be the case. As they play, children develop vital cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional skills. They make discoveries, build knowledge, experiment with literacy and math and learn to self-regulate and interact with others in socially appropriate ways. Play is also fun and interesting, which makes a playground in the community area or in a school a place where children look forward to spending their time. It is so deeply formative for children that it must be at the core of Uganda’s early childhood curriculum.

The child projects his own pattern of the world into the play and in so doing brings the real world closer to himself. He is building the feeling that the world is his to understand, to interpret, to puzzle about, and to make over. Children’s thinking develops through activity-based learning and social interactions with adults and peers. ANCHOR proposes to have facilitated discussions with parents and care givers within the play grounds. These discussions aim at encouraging parents and caregivers to instigate play and other stimulation activities like story-book reading with their children, playing with them, encouraging life skills and actively monitoring growth milestones in addition to other parenting skills. The parents who feel the discussions are making a difference in their lives will be encouraged to join paraprofessional club as ambassadors who will reach out to preschools, kindergartens building the capacities of teachers to develop the classroom environment in ways that promote the development of important skills in children.

Questions to ask the management of play grounds: 

How would you define an ideal playground for children, which services would it provide?
I had someone talking about an idea about holding parent sessions about proper child care in a playground. They said that whenever parents take their children to the playground, they are engaged in a fun filled participatory learning through a discussion about issues concerning child nutrition, health, child stimulation among others. 

If someone came to you with such an idea, what would you tell that person?
Sometimes what we feel is different from what we say, How would you feel about that idea and don’t tell that person? 
What would be the best way to implement such an initiative?
As an expert, what are the best ways parents would engage their children into play?

Role of Caretakers and families

In many families, the parenting falls to the eldest children or a teacher at school, with the parents having passed away or are both working hard all day long and away from the home. And with nearly half the population of Uganda consisting of youth, the task of parenting keeps falling to the next in line. Parents exercise enormous influence on their children, shaping their cognitive development, emotions, worldview and, consequently, their behavior. As noted earlier, most parents do not really appreciate the value of Nursery education as majority of parents in urban centers only use these Nursery schools and day care centers as safe havens for keeping their children when they are away from home for work. Their role is limited to paying school fees and dropping their children to school early in the morning and pick them late in the evening. Over the weekends, several families go out with the little ones to public play grounds but only use such places as a chance to hang out with their partners; grab a massage or enjoy a steam bath while the child plays along with other children.

Questions to ask the parents:

What are the hopes and dreams do you have for your child? What would be your view of a healthy and a smart child?
What would you do to ensure your child is healthy and smart?
What do you look for when enrolling your child in a pre-school?
What do you think is the best way to get involved in the learning of your child?
How would you encourage other parents to stimulate and take good care of their children?
If given a chance to become a child care ambassador, where would you go to reach to as many parents as you can?

Nursery Schools/Kindergarten and day care centers

Day care centers and nursery schools should provide a number of activities such as singing and learning about the environment for example plants. Playing, activities, experience and social interaction are regarded essential aspects of developing skills and knowledge. Learning should be in the mother tongue. There is emphasis on language comprehension and production. When teachers base their curriculums on these ideas, there are significant benefits for children’s capacity to think, to plan and to sustain their attention on difficult tasks. What is referred to as self-regulation in preschool becomes resiliency in high school. Many traits like persistence, planning, the ability to communicate and the capacity to collaborate have their roots in early childhood.

Integrated services such as health check-ups, immunisation, de-worming, growth monitoring, vitamin A supplements should be provided in partnership with the nearest health centre. Breastfeeding mothers should be encouraged to take off time during day to come to the centre to breastfeed their babies. Parenting education on positive child rearing practices should be provided to parents. In Uganda most centers focus a lot on complex subjects which make children lose interest because they have been given too much information that cannot be stored. There is also little time to play and rest for the children; they also forget the role of the parent in the child’s development.

Questions to ask the teachers of kindergartens:
  • How would you define an ideal school for children below 5 years, which services would it provide?
  • What do you think are the best ways to stimulate proper learning in children blow five years? 
  • What do you think is the best way to engage busy parents in the learning of their child?
  • As a teacher, what are your views of a healthy child?

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

Children 1-5 years and parents in Kampala Capital City and its suburbs, public play grounds, day care centers , kindergartens and nursery schools in urban and peri-urban centers will benefit from the idea. Parents and caretakers of these children will directly benefit by having better developed children while owners of child play centres and schools will mostly likely receive more clients as result of the intervention as more parents would want to associate with child development centred facilities.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

ANCHOR team members will identify one child play centre , one kindergarten within the suburbs of the capital city and hold discussions about the idea. Based on the outcomes of the discussions, the team will develop creative brief, teaching materials including interesting video testimonials to entice targeted audience to take action towards active support of children for psycho-social development through play. We will identify private companies such as Unilever who are targeting parents for sales of their laundry products to partner with us. The team will hold a launch of the initiative in the lay ground and kindergarten by inviting the general public as means of getting them to understand the goal of the ANCHOR and how they can support it. We will actively monitor outputs and outcomes of the initiative through monthly growth monitoring of children anthropometric and development milestones using growth cards, weekly feedback from parents and children among others.

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

We are looking for serious partners who can add value to our initiative and help us bring it to life.

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am ready and interested in testing this idea and making it real in my community.

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Spam
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This idea could be very effective across communities but could ultimately be taken up as a new format of up bringing. I really impressed with the way the two have be molding together. Theres a good balance

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