FEATURED: Green Hills Academy trains teachers on the role of play in early childhood

The attendants of the confrence while listening at one of the speakers at Green Hills Academy Main Hall.

On Tuesday, Nursery School teachers at Greens Hills Academy, Nyarutarama and around Kigali converged at the School’s premises for a conference that aimed at training teachers, teaching assistants and leaders, about the essence of play in early childhood.

The conference was under a theme, “The right to play in school.”

Carmel Marie Faulkner, the Principal of Nursery School, Green Hills Academy, pointed out, the purpose of the conference was to promote the importance of play in early childhood, from zero to eight years, within communities and schools.

She noted that the reason behind the theme was because, for the last 12 months, the country has got a lot of initiates, working with parents and local communities to develop parenting curriculum, where play was more frequently coming up in conversations. “As a school, we realized that research shows how important play is.”

Faulkner enlightened, often, the center of focus in Preschools, is academics but not play, for the purpose of promoting play, Green Hills reached out to the local community to take part in the conference, where Teach Rwanda (an Organization that establishes preschools in Rwanda to offer young children engaging learning experiences) volunteered to facilitate and share their initiatives.

She also noted, children develop most of their thinking capacities at the age of three, and then at five. Any positive intervention given to them has a long-lasting effect on them.

This conference was aimed at boosting the confidence of teachers, in the message they will convey to parents. With time, parents will also be invited to take part in a conference still about play, on the dates that will be communicated, Faulkner said.

She explained that a playful environment starts with the teachers, they are responsible for preparing a safe place for kids to play from, but also support, and establish an environment that allows play. This environment should enable the child’s emotional, physical and communication development.

Some of the education experts emphasized that play helps kids discover a lot of things, make sense of the world they live in, interact with one another, express and control emotions and also develop the symbolic and problem-solving abilities.

“This conference was extremely educative, we got to learn so much that we didn’t know yet we deal with these little ones every day. Some of the take-home points were; play helps children expand their vocabulary as they are exposed to different games, and conversations,” said Elyse Ishimwe, a Nursery teacher at Greens Hills Academy.  

She also explained that it is through play that children take risks and learn from them, practice what they see in their environment, come up with their ideas without being guided.

When it comes to playing, Ishimwe noted that it is everyone’s responsibility to provide a safe playful environment that is harmless to the children, this means doing away with sharp objects, or chemicals that can be dangerous to their lives.

She stressed a playful based environment is often chaotic, messy and loud, that why children need to play from a space where they are not given the dos and don’ts while playing because they might get bored. This she said, doesn’t limit parents or teachers to guide or check on kids while playing.

According to Janet F.Brown, an early childhood teacher and founder of Teach Rwanda, play has been demonstrated as a way kids learn, it is not proper to play if kids are directed on what to play, they rather, need to make choices of who to play with, which game to play, what time to play and for how long.

She stated, play is the foundation of everything, even human development starts before the baby is born, that is why pregnant women communicate very well with their babies in their womb. By the time they give birth, they have already bonded.

Brown further said play is a way children explore since they want to discover how things work. They even go the extra mile of memorizing everything they have learned or seen.

“Kids need to have classrooms, to play from. If a school doesn’t allow kids to have time to play, it is damaging their brains,” she said.