Play Day brought out my inner child, and parent!

Nicolette Bryan is Project Coordinator at Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), a partner of UNICEF.

I never realised before, but as adults we have forgotten how to play. As members of the Grants Pen community, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) were happy to give back on the day, but that didn’t mean we weren’t a little afraid!

At work we deal day-in day-out with human rights abuses, experiences which can be more than a little distressing, but volunteering for Play Day was an unknown. We were thinking, ‘Are the children going to find us boring?!’ Even the parents amongst us were literally anxious about our ability to entertain the children.

But we shouldn’t have been. The principal of Elim Basic School, Verna Gordon, was actually excited because JFJ had helped her with some research when a trainee teacher. Though it was us who were definitely the greenest students in her school.

Learning positive parenting techniques

Photograph of the flyer for Play Day 2018, held on World Children's Day, November 20.
UNICEF/JAMPlay Day 2018 flyer

She explained the school policies and how they teach. Playing with students clearly wasn’t new to them and it was great to see that they don’t subject their children to corporal punishment. Instead they put the children on time out and continued to repeat an action to them until they understand from the positive examples that teachers give them. We appreciated being taught how to treat their children, and even what to do if a child falls or hurts themselves.

We were prepared, but nothing fully prepares you for the energy of small children! However, our staff fell into play. It was reassuring to see the same games we did like bull-in-the-pen, ring games, hopscotch and they were some new songs we got to learn.

Going back to the games of our childhood

This took all of us back to our childhood, and although I’m not a parent, this made me think about what I would do if I was. I know it takes time but from what I learned, I would make sure to schedule time to play. It’s not just how children learn, it’s how we learn about our children, and these are the memories that stick.

Play Day took me back to things I remember as a child: those moments of pure joy. Parents need their children to be able to relate to them, and play creates a psychological bond that surpasses anything. I witnessed that it also helps with discipline, because if a child enjoys your company they are more inclined to listen to you.

Enhancing parent-child bond with play

Much of what I saw from the teachers was pure communication. Some of the time the little ones don’t listen, but then the teacher repeats, and after say the fourth time the boys and girls get it. They don’t shout at the children either. It was just lovely to watch. Elim Basic is definitely a school where I would send my child!

Honestly I left a bit tired out, but with a new energy. I could remember how happy play made me feel as a kid and each of us was like ‘I could see myself in that little one’. We literally went back to work giggling like them – that was energy we left with!

We’ve been invited to come back, even before Play Day 2019, and we told the school that we would. Our staff definitely have a heightened respect for preschool teachers in their expertise, their energy, and their patience. They have this gentle command about them that was special. None of us can go back being a toddler, but Play Day is the next best thing!

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