Promoting Playful Parenting in Zambia to Support Stronger Bonds Between Caregivers and Children
Parents and Caregivers learn playful techniques under Early Childhood Development
When Mary Mbewe, mother of three-year-old Elijah and five-month-old Dorcas, heard about the new initiative for supporting parenting and young children’s development coming to her village, she instantly signed up. Three months later, Mary received her first home visit from a community-based volunteer working under the early childhood development (ECD) initiative.
“I thought we would be called to the Mphala hub for community sessions, but being visited at my home was beyond expectations,” says Mary, with delight. The Nyambano Mphala is one of the ECD hubs, also called Insaka - a place in the community where people come together to engage in interventions that support young children from the early years, giving them the best start in life.
“The individual lessons at home changed my perception of the whole practice as I could comfortably ask questions about things that were unclear. I could also immediately try and practice the lessons,” adds Mary.
“Being Dorcas’ mother, I have seen great changes in her growth. Her play and interactions are better as compared to her elder sibling at this age. I tell my friends about how it has benefitted Dorcas and update my husband on various lessons which he tries out whenever he is around to see how our daughter responds”
UNICEF is supporting the Government of Zambia implement the ECD initiative in Chipata district, with support from Soccer Aid and the people of the United Kingdom. Under this initiative, more than 100 community-based volunteers are visiting parents and caregivers at their homes to guide and support them in caring for their children. In addition to the Nyambano Mphala, there are three more integrated ECD hubs in the district providing outreach and access to a range of services for parents and children, including growth monitoring and vitamin supplementation, and lessons on good nutrition, health, hygiene and early childhood education
Men and women from the community are both engaged as volunteers for the initiative, and among them is 53-year-old, Philip Phiri. Sharing his experience, Philip says, “Most men at my age may see this as waste of time, but for me it is a privilege that gives me an opportunity to contribute towards society improving the life of our next generation.”
The home visit usually begins with checking the under-five health cards for vaccination and growth monitoring status. Mary and her two children were attended by a community-based-volunteer, Jackson Jere, who, during this session, was advising Mary on age-appropriate play.
“In his first year of life, the play and communication for baby Dorcas focuses on identification,” says Jackson. “I encourage the caregiver to use different colored plastic cups and direct her play sessions to help learn through play.”
“Being Dorcas’ mother, I have seen great changes in her growth. Her play and interactions are better as compared to her elder sibling at this age. She is very active and responsive. I tell my friends from the community about how it has benefitted Dorcas and share lessons and tips that I learned with them,” says Mary. “I update my husband too on various lessons which he appreciates and tries out whenever he is around to see how our daughter responds,” shares Mary, as her husband and Mary play with Dorcas, making her excited and giggle with joy.