The Penreach ECD Umphakatsi project is providing teaching and learning to over 350 children in Msholozi, and the field advisor heading this project makes regular visits to the households in Msholozi, to monitor the project. The practitioners who are working in this project are called NCBPs, which stands for Non-Centre Based Practitioners.
Visiting the NCBP’s is an important aspect of the Umphakatsi teaching and learning programme, where the Field Advisor visits the NCBP in their household and observes the teaching and learning programme being conducted with the children and, if present speaks to the caregiver to know how the project is being received.
During such visits in the households the field advisor observes the teaching and learning programme, and checks that the required work is being done and all that the attendance registers (DSD and the Umphakatsi register), weekly planner, daily form and time sheets are being completed and are up to date.
Another very important component in our project is the importance we place on learning through play, as it is so important for the development of a young child. We are moving ahead in technology and teaching methodologies, forgetting about the most important part of the child’s development and that is learning through play. Play provides limitless possibilities for learning and development. Through play, children naturally learn about their surroundings, express their thoughts and feelings, advocate for their own points of view, and learn to respond to other people’s perspectives.
Play develops many skills in children, and some of the skills developed are:
Social skills and relationship building
Negotiation, conflict resolution and problem-solving
Empathy and self-regulation
Independence and safe risk-taking
Imagination and creativity
Wonder and curiosity is developed
We need to bring play into our everyday programme and allow the children to develop at their own pace, without pressurising them into doing things that they are not ready to do, both mentally and physically.
In my own personal experience on how important play is to the children in my career, which spans over many years, I have always seen the enjoyment on the children’s faces when they are playing and through this enjoyment, I have observed learning taking place. Take something simple like throwing and catching a ball, through this simple activity, the child is developing so many skills, like, social and emotional, kinaesthetic, gross motor skills and his language is also being developed. Think of the eye hand coordination, that is also being developed, as the child sees exactly where he needs to throw the ball, and from whom he needs to catch it back.
As adults, who are caregivers, if we remember the importance of play and bring it into the everyday lives of children, we will see a big difference in the development of children.
To Quote Elkind in 2007, who said:
“Play gives children the opportunity to learn about themselves, to create and to innovate, and to learn how to make independent judgments. They also learn mutual respect and how to work with others.” Unquote.
We need to remember that experiences are what make a human being learn, right from wrong, and if we do not give our children this opportunity, then we are taking away this most important skill from them.
Play is important in ECD as it develops the children by allowing them to make decisions and take action, and then face the consequences. We need to provide the required opportunities for the children to be able to do this, by providing activities and programmes that can lead to the development of skills through play. As ECD practitioners we must remember that the child is the most important part of the ECD centre, and we must do everything that we can to ensure that our children develop in a holistic manner and at their own pace, without having pressure put on them.
Currently play is being featured as a vital component of ECD with the DOE and DSD.The departments are realizing the importance and need for play in the ECD curriculum. DSD especially is putting emphasis on Play. I spoke to Social Work Supervisor Ms Portia Mtshali and she mentioned that play is important and that her department is ensuring that practitioners use play in their daily activities. Ms Mtshali also confirmed that all social workers working in ECD, conduct regular monitoring of the ECD programme, during which they encourage play for both indoor and outdoor activities.
I am sure going forward that all activities in the ECD centre will be based on the concept of play.
In our Penreach Teacher Development workshops we have a variety of subjects that are offered to the ECD practitioners and centre managers and these subjects include activities that are play based, for example basic skills, which includes creative art activities, another one of our new subjects on offer in ECD is Lego. In this workshop the practitioners learn the importance of playing with Lego blocks and they are given information about the development that takes place through playing with Lego. Organisations around the world are realising that learning is more effective when associated with play.
As Penreach, we reach numerous ECD centres and we can take the importance of play to the centres and encourage inclusion of play into the daily activities in the centre.
Keeping the impact of play in mind we should be asking ourselves the following questions:
How we can get more ECD centres to pay attention to this issue, and how we can develop the children’s skills through play.
Are more activities needed in ECD centres that are based on play, and how we can introduce these activities to the practitioners, in an effective manner.
How can we bring this important issue to the attention of parents, who are the primary caregivers of the children, as they need to know about the importance of play.
How can we as an organization, spread the word that “Play is important for our children”.