Play Day taking hold in Jamaica

Play is a movement. Not only that it encourages Jamaican boys and girls to exercise their body and minds – but there is a growing awareness among adults of its importance for child development, and that they can join in too!

Like a game of classroom telephone that UNICEF was invited to play with first grade students at Half Way Tree Primary School in Kingston.

“Today is Play Day and we are having fun,” and “The boy is running.” These were the first and the last messages whispered amid much anticipation from one child’s mouth lent to the ear of the next. Naturally these two sentences wind up being completely different – but that is where the fun and the learning can be found.

More partners came to play in 2018

We had modeled for teachers how they could use this simple game to introduce or to review a topic as the class went on to focus on the nouns in each sentence. Next up were some old-time ring games that ensured maximum student participation, like Bull in the pen to the great enjoyment of the children and the teachers.

Photograph of UNICEF Jamaica staff member Audrey Tulloch playing with Half Way Tree Primary School students on Play Day 2018 held on Tuesday, November 20, World Children's Day.
UNICEF/JAM/Audrey TullochWhose having more fun on Play Day: our Operations Officer Audrey Tulloch or Half Way Tree Primary School students?

Play is a key right of all children and as such our aim is to see #PlayDayJA become established much like Read Across Jamaica Day earlier, when staff from workplaces across the island share their time with children. In fact, staff from numerous organisations were doing just that for Play Day yesterday; and UNICEF partner Talk Up Yout even started #PlayMattersJA to stretch play across the entire month of November. Thank you all!

All this effort complements the establishment by the Ministry of Health of its Games-Based Curriculum for grades 1-3. Not only schools but parents too can use the accompanying manual, which contains many enjoyable games to play – and create memorable moments at school and at home. For parents this can help strengthen their bonds with children and avoid communication  challenges in later years.

Benefits of play last throughout life

At UNICEF we’ve seen firsthand how powerful play can be through our EduSport partnership with the Treasure Beach-based Breds Foundation. The children simply light up on EduSport days. Attendance is higher and aggression is lower because play releases stress at all ages; their time on task in class is better and key literacy and numeracy concepts are reinforced.

Beyond the fun, child’s play has a serious implications for later life. During the first 1,000 days of life a child’s brain is twice as active as an adult. As the groundbreaking ‘Jamaica Study’ found, quality early childhood intervention increase earnings as an adult by 25 per cent.

Early Moments Matter and play has a vital role! It is the way a child learns how to understand his or her world and in many ways him or herself. Play not only builds a child’s sense of self-worth, it builds essential life skills – physical, social, cognitive and emotional.

To all Jamaican children and adults alike – UNICEF looks forward to setting our next ‘play date’ together!

 

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