Enhancing Children’s Development and Growth through Playful Parenting in Zambia
Community-based integrated early childhood development
Two-year-old Catherine Phiri is her mother’s first child. Catherine lives with her mother and grandmother in Mugwitu village Katete District in the Eastern Province of Zambia and has been part of the Insaka programme since she was three months old. Insaka a community-based integrated Early Childhood Development (ECD) Initiative, aims to strengthen the capacity of parents in Zambia to engage in nurturing care practices and playful parenting. Playful parenting promotes child development as it provides for meaningful exchange between a parent or caregiver and a child. This enhances child development outcomes – especially for vulnerable children.
UNICEF Zambia has been keeping track of Catherine’s growth since she was one year old, to build a powerful and illustrative story about the programme’s impact using interviews, photos, and video
The Insaka model focuses on parents or caregivers, strengthening their skills in using play activities to enable children develop cognitive, physical, communication, and social/emotional skills. Through the programme, volunteers in the community are trained to support delivery of Early Childhood Development (ECD) services in nurturing care, play and counselling techniques.
Flavia Banda, a Community Based Volunteer (CBV) with the Insaka programme in Katete District conducts home visits in Mugwitu village to provide counselling to parents. Flavia and her fellow volunteers seek measures that would assist parents and caregivers to continuously improve on the quality of their interactions with, and caretaking of, their children.
Flavia is the volunteer who has been responsible for Catherine’s case.
“I am a volunteer at Kholowa Hub and in charge of 10 households in Mugwitu Village. As a CBV, I visit each household once a month to teach and check on how the parents are managing or may need assistance. Each month, I pay Catherine’s household a visit and during the visits, I noticed that Catherine was very close to both her caregivers which were her mother and her grandmother.”
“I agreed to join in the playful parenting lessons and see how this new initiative in the village would help promote my granddaughter's growth. After a few lessons on responsive caregiving, I then realised that Catherine needed more support,” said Edna. “Slowly I started creating ways to keep her engaged and with time, she smiled more and was gaining more interest in our various play activities such as identifying pictures and colours.
From these lessons, I have seen the importance and impact of caregiver's responsiveness to children’s behaviour. I have seen impact of playful parenting on child development and growth. From the interactions with Catherine, I can see her response and how she can do a lot of different activities at an early age, showing that the lessons are impactful.”
Catherine is now 2 years old. She spends a lot of time with her grandmother, who has been teaching her counting, correct word pronunciation
, and other activities. Edna has created more interactive play activities for Catherine as she is optimistic to see Catherine enrolled into the Early Childhood Education programme at the Kholowa in the district when she turns 3 years old.
UNICEF, with support from the LEGO Foundation, is working in collaboration with government line ministries, community leaders, and partners to implement the Insaka and Playful Parenting programmes. As of April 2022, estimated 25,816 caregivers have been reached with lessons on playful parenting, benefiting 25,442 children.