Our idea is to train a network of support staff who will set up PlaySchools in these communities, which support early development of the children, as well as supporting the community around them. These staff are trained in early development in reasonable detail, about cognitive, social, language and physical development during ages 0-5 (and possibly upwards of 5). They are trained about nutrition that young children require to support their development, and trained in how the resources available to these communities, such as locally available meats and crops, can best be matched to the nutrition needs of infants to support their growth (they will also be trained in how to support the activities of the PlaySchool, such as teaching and games, which we will describe in more details further down). These support staff will also initiate and orchestrate the development of the PlaySchool, including finding space for it to run (bearing in mind that it does not necessarily require a building to run, but could be run outside in some open space), and they will find volunteers from the local community that are enthusiastic about the project. These volunteers might be mothers or grandmothers, many of whom will already have lots of experience of raising children in this community. This detail is important, as for the PlaySchool to be a success in these small communities, it should be run by members of that community.
The support staff will then train the volunteers about development principles, nutrition for young children etc. They may also help in training the volunteers in other ways if necessary, such as principles of hygiene that are specific for the needs of young children to support their development. These activities may be supported with distribution of materials outlining these principles and ideas - such as laminated cards showing what foods infants need and in what quantities, what activities best support different aspects of development, etc.
The support staff will also be trained, and in turn train the volunteers, in matter regarding the everyday activity of the PlaySchool. These activities may also be specific to the environment or values of the community in question, but at this stage we consider that generally there should be five areas of focus; music, craft, storytelling, learning games and physical games.
- Music, craft and storytelling are important parts of early development and also important parts of the cultural identity of many groups of people, so we are able to support both cultural identity and cognition, language development and social development.
- Learning games, such as games involving numeracy and vocabulary also hugely support cognitive and language ability.
- Physical games may be things as simple as active games such as 'Tig', which encourage social and physical development.
In terms of resources, we hope that many of the tools and toys needed for games, craft and music can be constructed from things in the surrounding environment, and could be as simple as using blocks of wood in counting games. Regarding physical games, there are a number of resources that could be very helpful, such as the 'One World Futbol' (http://www.oneworldfutbol.com/).
The hope is that these PlaySchools will create an environment that supports infants in a wide variety of ways, creates an understanding in developing communities about nutrition and hygiene for young children, provides an environment where some mothers who have to work shortly after their child's birth are able to receive the support of trusted available human capital in their community, builds community relationship including friendships for the children, and that once the PlaySchool is operational and working well, that the support staff will be able to move on the create the same project in other villages.
Related videos, articles and resources;
Enriching education through play in Ethiopia
Music in brain development of young children
Benefits of playing an instrument for your brain
What do babies think?
UPDATE:Just two further resources and ideas that we have had;
This first link is a site, similar to openIdeo, but that is specific to building community areas and playgrounds - it has some really great posts and material available, including a focus on locally available materials and playground safety!
Regarding instruments, we managed to find two instruments that are relevant to African culture, and could hopefully be created from locally avaliable materials.