At Learn To Play, our motto is to transform childhoods and uplift communities – but what does that actually mean? You may be wondering how we do that.
We work consciously and strategically, using an integrated approach for early childhood development, to meet the sustainable development goals. Early childhood interventions are proven to be one of the most powerful equalizers and quality, holistic programmes can in fact be one of the key drivers for positive impact within communities.
Here’s how we are helping to achieve the sustainable development goals:
Goal 1: No Poverty
Early childhood development (ECD) has been documented to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for poverty alleviation and Learn To Play playgroups are low-cost, high-impact programmes that are both scalable and sustainable.
Early in life, when the brain has the maximum capacity to develop one’s potential, children learn the skills that will help them flourish in a 21st-century economy. Investments into ECD give one of the highest returns – the Heckmann equation proves a 13% return into the economy for investments made into early childhood interventions.
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
Learn To Play works with communities to support Mamapreneurs – women, mothers and caregivers who were unable to find long-term employment who showed a commitment to their community and working with children. These are often head of household women, responsible for providing a sustainable income to feed their families.
Furthermore, by offering a safe environment for children to be engaged in supervised play and learning, parents and caregivers now have time freed up for their own commitments and responsibilities which include income generation opportunities, farming and food sustenance amongst others.
During lockdowns, many of the families we serve have had no income and therefore no food on their tables. With our network of supporters, we have been able to provide emergency relief hampers for families across the country.
In this way, we are creating communities of opportunity and finding community solutions to end hunger.
Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being
ECD interventions set a trajectory for good lifelong health and wellbeing. Our Rainbow Play Approach allows for children to develop across multiple domains, including physical action games which can lead to lower incidence of cardiovascular and non-communicable diseases.
Children who receive playful learning interventions along with health and nutrition supplements have better outcomes than children who only receive health support, thereby amplifying the impact of nutrition.
Supportive play in a safe environment along with responsive nurturing care from Mamapreneurs and caregivers buffer the negative impact of stress thereby improving absorption of nutritional intake from their regular diet.
Since the onset of COVID19 lockdowns in Botswana, Learn To Play team members have been providing imperative information on the pandemic and mentoring families on wellbeing and wellness through a mobile mentoring programme.
With quality early childhood interventions and nurturing care, not only do children survive, they thrive.
Goal 4: Quality Education
Early learning opportunities, such as high-quality playgroups, prove to be the foundation for later learning, academic success and productivity and the early years are now well-documented as the most critical period of brain architecture.
A study on increasing pre-school enrolment in 73 countries found higher future wages of US$6 to US$17 per dollar invested, which indicates potential long-term benefits ranging from US$11 to US$34 billion.
Easily scalable & replicable in a variety of contexts, our model leads to improved school readiness & holistic wellbeing, enabling every child to unlock their potential.
Goal 5: Gender Equality
By training Mamapreneurs to deliver our playgroups, we are uplifting the lives of marginalized women in communities where their access to employment and education is limited. Women are less likely to be entrepreneurs and face more disadvantages starting businesses: In 40% of economies, women’s early stage entrepreneurial activity is half or less than half of that of men’s and we hope to change that by giving our Mamapreneurs platforms to establish their own playgroups.
Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
We work with communities to build tippy-taps to provide access to clean water and hygienic habits at our playgroup centres. We also provide training on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for our Mamapreneurs and include information on healthy habits in our curriculum so that young children and their caregivers are building positive behaviours from an early age.
During the COVID19 pandemic, we have been working directly with families to encourage them to build their own tippy-taps in their homes. Thanks to our generous donors, we have provided Mamapreneurs with masks and sanitizers, and provided each child with a mask of their own too.
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
When more women work, economies grow. It is estimated that if women’s unpaid work were assigned a monetary value, it would constitute between 10 per cent and 39 per cent of GDP.
At Learn To Play, we acknowledge and compensate women for establishing quality childcare and early learning programmes. Furthermore, many of our Mamapreneurs have used the playgroup as a catalyst for their own microenterprises. Through our playgroups, Mamapreneurs have started vegetable gardens, an eco-friendly straw operation, served as assistants at health clinics and in social work and village development committees.
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
ECD is a powerful equalizer for the global disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Children with the least benefit the most. Disadvantaged children who receive ECD services earn up to 25 per cent more as adults compared with children who did not receive the services and almost catch up in earnings to their non-disadvantaged peers.
This knowledge compels us to act, and to act smartly. At Learn To Play, we invest equitably in education for vulnerable children across the country.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
At Learn To Play, our mandate is ‘Sustainable Play’. This means that all our resources are made from recyclable and reusable household products, nature and non-plastic resources such as wooden toys and eco-friendly art supplies.
Our curriculum has entire units of work on conservation, our natural world and builds eco-consciousness from children as young as two years old. We proactively partner with conservation organisations within the country, such as Cheetah Conservation Botswana, to build better understanding of coexistence with our environment. The nature of our work helps to inform and inspire attitudes and behaviours of the families we work with in these communities.
Goal 16: Promote Peaceful Societies
Early childhood interventions have the potential to promote healthy neurobiology, foster resilience in children and instill values and behaviours that reduce violence and promote peace. ECD interventions have been shown to lower rates of violence in the home and greater social cohesion in communities.
Through the Learn To Play programme, we cultivate empathy, belongingness, and identity at a local and global level by incorporating the language of virtues into our curriculum and training. A core component of our daily curriculum is a strong focus on social and emotional development for young learners. Pertinent to the communities we live and work in, we promote peaceful human-wildlife coexistence.
Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals
Measurement of early childhood development at global, regional and national levels can serve as a powerful tool to strengthen global partnerships. Our role at Learn To Play is to implement, measure and advocate for early childhood interventions through multi stakeholder partnerships; using our programme as a catalyst for change.
An integrated approach is fundamental to the success of any early childhood programme. Early Childhood Care and Education needs to include child protection officers, healthcare professionals, educators, parents, caregivers and community workers as well as higher-level partners in government, policy and the private sector – just as we do at Learn To Play.
Given that 90 percent of the brain develops between the ages of 0 and 5 years old, it is imperative that children are nurtured, protected, well-nourished and healthy; and that developmental domains are stimulated in this period to set every child’s foundation for lifelong success.