What do Ferdinand Magellan, Roald Amundsen and Edmund Hillary have in common? They ventured into untested waters and uncharted territories and scaled new heights. They were the great explorers of new worlds. In the course of our blog posts on A-V, our readers would have explored so many prisms through which to look at the Mobile Creches’ world: the first six years of a child’s life. And what of the youngest explorer, the newborn, who comes into our world, leaving the comfort and protection of the mother’s womb?
For the infant, everything is a ‘first’, and as momentous as discovering new mountains, oceans and continents! As we learnt in the ‘S’ piece, while some sensory development starts in the womb, active exploration begins after birth.
Have you ever seen a six-month-old child dropping his toy from the cradle, expecting you to pick it up for her so she can throw it right back? Or have you observed a two-year-old making new shapes with Play-Doh, kneading the soft matter with her hands, and taking delight in her creations? These are the little ways a child explores her own little arena, expressing her thoughts and ideas and experimenting with materials to create something new. We call it Child’s Play.
Play is an essential and important way through which children learn, the X factor,still least understood. It helps to build self-worth by giving the child a sense of his or her own abilities and to feel good about the self. Play allows children to develop their imagination and
skills to build physical, cognitive, and emotional capabilities. Play is important for healthy brain development. It is through play that children engage and interact with objects and people in the world around them. Engaging young children in the very do able household chores, asking for their help with decorations for festivities, putting the toys away, etc. helps to build in them a sense of belonging, ownership and sense of self.
Apart from indoor spaces, outdoor, open environments,where safety is ensured are equally important. With overcrowding in the cities, inadequate urban infrastructure and shrinking community spaces, few children get such opportunities. More than 11% live in slums and unauthorized colonies, where parks are few and far between. The so called designated public spaces, are usurped for adult, social functions: like community centre becomes a Baraat Ghar (marriage hall); the narrow lanes between houses are crowded with parked cycles or charpa is put outside given the inadequate living spaces in the homes; other ‘available’ areas get occupied by hawkers or are littered with uncleared garbage. Where are the children to play?
On the eve of the CWG (Common Wealth Games) 2010, in Delhi, Mobile Creches and its network partners produced a film called ‘Hum Bhi Khelenge’. The film showed a stark contrast between the crores of rupees spent on the Games as opposed to a complete lack of public spaces designated for play, that could be easily accessed by children irrespective of their socio-economic standing. While, post CWG, the sports facilities in the various stadia have been opened up (as was the case with Asiad 1982) to those who can pay the membership dues or belong to prestigious schools, etc., the underprivileged are left to play in the ‘green triangles’ at busy crossings or in unoccupied, and unsafe, plots of land near their homes.
The other issue is that parents do not get enough time to spend with their children or do not realize the importance of play. Therefore children today are learning in a very restricted and closed environment.
Picture shows a child – Charlie Brown, a favorite character from a comic strip - who does not want to go to school. The reasons can be many. We all know that the stresses and strains a formal school environment can impose on the child.For the child to stay on in school, s/he should have the skills to cope up with peers and the pressures of work and, simultaneously, take interest in studies and enjoy learning.Research has revealed that children who get enough opportunities to express, experience and explore during the early years are better able to adapt to formal schooling.
In India, the dropout rate at primary level is 4.5%, which hikes up to 14.5% at secondary level, and therefore investment during early years is very crucial.
The Mobile Creches childcare programme follows the core principles of early learning and stimulation even as it integrates health, nutrition and education into one holistic piece. One of the non-negotiable elements for quality child care is the provision of ample space for play, indoors and outdoors.Mobile Creches’ age appropriate curriculums gives enough opportunities to all children to express themselves through songs, discussions around stories and poems, group interactions, role plays and simple experiments. Activities like clay modelling, collage making, paper folding, different kinds of drawings, etc. are planned to enhance creativity and stimulate the imagination. Our caregivers are listening to every child and their response is appropriate to the developmental age and cultural context of the child.
“Standing tall you tower over me
Could you please at the same level be”
While interacting with children the teachers kneel down or squaton the floor, next to them, as it helps develop trust and bonding.The teacher is not ‘talking down’ to them.
The programme at Mobile Creches also has elements like excursions, educational trips, bal sabhas (children’s meetings), camps etc. which expose children to hands on learning, outside a structured classroom environment (See blog T).
देखो इन्हें ये हैं ओस की बूँदें
पत्तों की गोद में आसमां से कूदे
अंगड़ाई लें फिर करवट बदल कर
नाज़ुक से मोती हंस दे फिसल कर
खो ना जाएँ ये तारे ज़मीं पर…..
This song from Taare Zameen Par, a 2007 film that won many awards, is about an 8-year-old dyslexic child. He is put down and bullied by his peers, berated by his teachers and constantky falls short of his parents’ expectation. His art teacher at the boarding school recognizes his talent and his predicament and creates the right environment for him to blossom in. And he does.
Studies have proved that it is the environment, the opportunities, the acknowledgements and the responses a child receives during the early years that make all the difference to her overall development. We learnt in the N blog post on “Nature and Nurture” that our inherited genes interact dynamically with the external environment to make us who we are.So, ‘taqdeer’ (fate) is an inadequate answer to the question, “Nanhe munne bachche teri mutthi main kya hai” (Little one, what is in your clenched fist), the heart-warming song of the award winning film, Boot Polish, 1954. The mutthi (fist) has two connotations – the fate lines on our palms as well as the possibilities that our hands pose. The child’s future and fortune are in our hands, the adults’. Will we choose well?