The centers using play to encourage learning in Jordan

UNICEF Jordan is focusing on projects that allow children to play and enjoy themselves while also encouraging learning. (Photo: Unsplash)
AMMAN — Learning through play is one of the most effective ways that children learn. In today’s fast moving and ever changing world, with great and rapid advancements in educational methods, play remains essential for sound child development.اضافة اعلان

“Every child has the right to play and leisure as per Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Kingdom of Jordan ratified in 1991,” said Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF Jordan representative, in an interview with Jordan News.

Asked about how playgrounds and play spaces can contribute to children’s healthy development and education, Chapuisat said: “Play is one of the most important ways in which young children can gain essential knowledge and skills for life. During these early years of life, the development of cognitive skills, emotional well-being, social competence and sound physical and mental health builds a strong foundation for success well into adulthood.”

Aiming to encourage the role of play in the lives of children, UNICEF has carried out several projects inside Jordan including setting up “Makani” centers around the country, safe spaces for children to learn and make new friends. “UNICEF developed safe play spaces that enable children to learn, engage, and acquire new skills while playing in a safe child-friendly space,” Chapuisat said.

UNICEF Jordan partnered with Lego to train 150 early childhood development facilitators and volunteers as part of the Parent and Child Education Program (PCEP-3), and the learning through play methodology at 100 Makani centers. 

The UN organ also trained 113 supervisors for KG through grade three on how to implement the learning through play methodology in a formal school setting. This was followed by training of 737 KG through grade three teachers in the same methodology.

 UNICEF supplied Lego play box kits to Makani centers and to double-shift schools, schools in camps and newly established kindergarten in formal education settings. 

Other initiatives included support to community skateparks in East Amman. “UNICEF Jordan Country Office supports sports activities, which are effective in building life skills among children and young people, strengthening social inclusion, and contributing to reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” Chapuisat said.

“Belonging, acceptance, and potential all characterize a variety of sporting endeavors and sporting ideology that exemplify UNICEF’s mission in Jordan. In order to effectively implement a sporting activity, evidence has shown that the activities themselves should be complemented by supporting environments, child and youth-led participation, and access to safe and convenient sports facilities,” she added.

Despite all this, Chapuisat said it’s all not enough without UNICEF continuously engaging in policy and strategy dialogue with policy makers and donors to highlight the importance of sports in child development and ensuring the participation of children and adolescents. 

She stressed the need to “engage children and young people, especially girls and children living with disabilities, to make their voices heard in all decisions impacting their lives and enabling them to become agents of positive change.” 

As for Jordan’s efforts to ensure and bolster the right to play, a number of municipalities across the Kingdom are renovating green safe play areas for children and establishing new ones.

The Greater Amman Municipality has more than 100 safe spaces for children, and they have recently renovated three new green safe spaces and established one more launched in July this year.

“These spaces are not sufficient to meet the demands of a rising population, but are a very good starting point that provides children with opportunities to play in a safe green space,” Chapuisat said.

“In 2020, UNICEF Jordan launched an innovative partnership with a local non-profit organization — 7Hills — dedicated to enhancing the social inclusion and cohesion of vulnerable young people in East Amman through skateboarding awareness,” she said.

Chapuisat said that UNICEF in partnership with 7Hills, the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) and the Ministry of Youth, is building a community skatepark in East Amman, where youth leaders organize classes for adolescents and young people from all nationalities.

She presented a number of recommendations regarding play spaces for children in Jordan “There is a need for more safe public spaces in Jordan in response to Jordan’s scarcity of public spaces, which alienates marginalized populations, including refugees, ethnic and gender minorities as well as children and young people with disabilities,” Chapuisat said.

She added that girls and young women in particular lack access to targeted recreational opportunities within their communities, this confines them to the private sphere which exacerbates problems of female participation in other spheres, including social and economic ones.

“For those spaces to work out there is a need to establish long-standing partnerships with community members and local organizations,” Chapuisat said, “(in order) to maximize the positive impact on the community and increase participation of vulnerable groups.”

She said that in planning, designing and implementing these public safe play areas, Jordan needs to incorporate a child-friendly framework where the views of children are considered, while ensuring that these spaces are inclusive, child-friendly, safe, and accessible to every child, especially those living with disabilities.”

In another conversation with Maha Qandil, a kindergarten teacher for eight years, she said: “At the start of my career as a teacher of kindergarten children, I used play only to make sure the child doesn’t feel bored from the first hours. I was afraid to play games during the lessons so as not to disturb the order and tranquillity of the class.”

“I later found that I was wrong,” Qandil said. “The acquisition of knowledge through play means a child receives the information joyfully, which has a great impact on the extent to which this knowledge is retained and not forgotten. I only speak from my experience as a teacher, and because I am the mother of a five-year-old as well.”

She said that few parents are aware of places like the Children’s Museum in Amman, a place that instils knowledge in the child through fun and games. “If you visit this museum, you will find that it is impossible to learn something new without having fun. The other important thing about it is that parents can be directly involved with their children as they play and learn,” Qandil said.

She said the museum is one of the most important, the funniest, and most useful achievements for children and their parents. The Children’s Museum was established in 2007 at the initiative of Queen Rania. Its main task is to foster a love of knowledge in children.

The museum aims to develop the learning capabilities of children, stirring their curiosity and providing them with basic skills that will help them for life. It develops children’s creativity and aesthetic senses.

The museum contains more than 150 interactive exhibits.

The educational programs are also designed to be fun and interesting.

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