Play in childhood years has huge benefits for cognitive, emotional and social development of children. In order to inspire play and its advocates in times of crises, we have designed a practical play-work training and a rich variety of activities for children, forming a sustainable play provision in communities that do not have such opportunities due to poverty, isolation or marginalisation. Now, after COVID-19 crises affected community cohesion, we believe in an empowerment through play.
The project will take place in several rural areas in Bulgaria - near Varna, Gabrovo and Smolyan.
Have you heard of "play deprivation"? This phenomenon is increasingly common, especially in small, marginalized communities, where spontaneous play in children is considered a "waste of time." This condition, also known as "lack of play" has very negative effects on children and adults as well, including frequent acts of violence and antisocial behavior, impaired brain development and lack of communication and problem-solving skills, and poor social skills. Additional evidence for the effects of play deprivation suggests that such children are at greater risk of aggressive and violent behavior at home. In those regions we believe we can provide an opportunity for developing cooperative or altruistic behaviors and thus sustaining communal harmony in the local areas.
Research shows that those with sufficient play backgrounds tended to manage their stressful circumstances with a much greater repertoire of adaptive choices, and mastered them, rather than succumbing to self-defeating, maladaptive, violent or antisocial dysfunctional solutions. This demonstrates that healthy play patterns are linked to personal vitality, resilience, optimism and well being. We believe that providing rich play experiences to those communities in Bulgaria we can support and sustain cooperative empathic social capacities in those adults and children as well as provide experiences leading to improved resiliency, good stress management, curiosity and other adaptive capabilities, helping the players to effectively deal with an inevitably challenging and changing world.
Our efforts are focused on local groups that include adults (parents, educators, facilitators, social workers and other professionals) and children from different ethnic and social communities, small towns, as well as men (fathers) to be included in the play activities and training models for play-centered early childhood development practice. The communities in the areas that we have chosen are known for their poor economic and social conditions, high risk of school drop-out and emerging cases of child abuse and neglect. They are also regions that got affected by the COVID-19 crises where many families lost their jobs and possibilities for regular income. This ripples onto children where quality educational provision is seen as luxury, and decent social provision as unnecessary expense.
We have planned an approach on
1) providing rich hands-on play experiences to children in the local communities
2) working with adults on establishing quality and sustainable play provision in the region.
For adults we have planned several programs, providing information, guidance and training, designed to explain children’s play and how adults can support it, stimulate it and actively facilitate it at practice level. These trainings also address parental fears or prejudices in the local community and are gender and culturally sensitive. For children we have planned three outdoor pop-up playgrounds, and play week, designed to offer a range of play opportunities that children may not have access to otherwise, such as creative activities, challenges, emotional awareness and belonging.
Play develops creativity and resilience. Play and spontaneity are factors that not only allow the Self to express itself, but also to create a new work of art, new technological inventions, new social environments. With higher levels of spontaneity and play, the personality is more vivacious, energetic and contagious with enthusiasm. In our work with children and local communities, we have seen the play's exceptional ability to bring people together in a connected and supportive community. We believe that play can create a valuable dialogue between families and children from different social and economic backgrounds, a bond between educators and parents, a community, advocating children’s rights in times of crises and thus establishing a long lasting empowerment of children.
The importance of play is recognised in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It explicitly states that:
“States Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.” (UN General Assembly, 1989)
This helps everyone with an interest in the wellbeing of children to better understand the importance of play. While it is often considered non-essential, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2013 reaffirms that it is a fundamental and vital dimension of the pleasure of childhood and an essential component of physical, social, cognitive, emotional and spiritual development. We have built our enthusiasm and efforts in this statement.
In our work, we have seen how kids who play more become more capable to deal with the ever changing challenges in life. They develop creativity, curiosity, courage, empathy; they are confident and persistent even if they fail in the beginning. Children explore their personality and authenticity in play. In our childhood we have grown up mostly playing with other kids, outdoors, with no adults around. We were taking risks, making friends, spending free time in daydreaming, and sometimes shedding a tear over a knee scratch. Nowadays children don't have these things. Their time is strictly scheduled between school time, after school activities, homework, where play is often out of the picture. We strongly believe that children deserve free play back in their childhood. We do owe it to them.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Project management - 14 000 Euro
Rentals: 5 200 Euro
Travel costs: 1 000 Euro
Development tools: 2 700 Euro
Web and media support: 10 350 Euro
Personnel costs: 14 750 Euro
Any critics or comments in general about the project relevance, idea and feasibility are welcome, along with good practice examples or future partner/network suggestions. We believe implementation of this project is crucial for socio-economic, democratic and sustainable development in our region, an