Learning to play with toys

Playing with toys is a new experience for preschool teachers from remote communities.

Nai Qala’s preschool program is designed to provide young children with a range of experiences that help them develop skills and attitudes that will enable them to make good use of lifelong learning opportunities, which is why play is an important component of the curriculum. However, playing with toys is not part of the culture and is not always understood in isolated communities.

Teachers felt uncomfortable playing with toys.

Women teachers from the Yakawlang district who have been teaching a preschool class for a year participated in a three-day refresher course organized by Nai Qala association; it was an opportunity to exchange experiences and deepen their knowledge about early childhood and education. For the Nai Qala team, such a workshop is also an opportunity to gather feedback from teachers on the past school year and to get ideas to improve the training of future teachers. 

A big lesson learned from the three days is that play and toys can represent abstract concepts that are sometimes difficult to grasp. We took it for granted that playing with construction toys develops the imagination and allows children to inspire each other, but this was not the case for teachers who never had the opportunity to play with “western” toys in their own childhood. Indeed, construction toys bewildered many teachers who felt lost and confused, so in some kindergarten classes, Lego bricks and wooden blocks were left out.

Experimenting to understand the role of toys

A few days later, Nai Qala trained 33 young women in preschool education. After learning about the theory of the role of play in children’s development, the future teachers were given the opportunity to experiment with some construction toys and to play by themselves. It was very touching to see these young women playing with bricks and blocks. At first puzzled and wondering about the meaning and use of the different shapes, they used their imagination, became enthusiastic and let their creativity express itself to such an extent that the trainers lost a bit of control of the class. 

Very proud of their own achievements, the trainees understood the importance of using these toys for children. Fun, excitement, joy, concentration, initiative, coordination, curiosity, creativity, inspiration, collaboration, perseverance are all words inspired by their play time.