Why Play?

Why Play

The Importance of Play

Play Africa is the first interactive children’s play and early education museum of its kind in Southern Africa. Disrupting the idea of a “museum,” Play Africa equips Africa’s children to become creative, engaged learners with skills to flourish in a 21st century world.

“We can no longer teach 21st century learners using old pedagogical methods alone. The future beckons, and that future is digital – the fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. It is an exciting world where play-based learning and other active pedagogies not only play a role in the cognitive development of the child, but development of each child’s ability for collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence.” Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, Republic of South Africa (https://www.legofoundation.com/media/1664/creating-creators_full-report.pdf)

Play is an integral part of early learning and healthy development. An explosion of research in neuroscience and other developmental sciences creates overwhelming evidence of the profound influence of playful early experiences in a child’s healthy development. Responsive, rich social interactions with trusted, loving adults builds healthy brain connections. Through playful learning, children can become life-long learners who adapt and flourish in an uncertain, complex world.

Play is widely understood to spark imagination, problem solving, teamwork, and empathy. Through playful learning, children develop collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence (Golinkoff & Hirsch-Pasek, 2016).

Play offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children. It is also an essential tool for educators in school settings. Play helps children develop new competencies that lead to increased confidence and the flexibility to face future challenges.

At Play Africa, we prototype early learning activities that will empower children in an increasingly technological world. More than ever before, dynamic learning experiences are essential for economic and social reasons.

Investing in playful learning makes economic sense

“Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function, which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.” American Academy of Paediatrics

Growing research shows that supporting innovative, high quality early learning programmes delivers a far greater return on investment than similar programmes later in life. Playful learning has been shown to boost children’s learning readiness and behaviours, and enhance problem-solving skills. This lays the groundwork for success in school and beyond.

Invest in Play Africa’s high quality learning programmes

The right to play

Play Africa champions children’s rights. We believe in the essential rights of equality, freedom, security, health and shelter. Most importantly, we champion children’s right to playful learning.

According to The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, every child has the right to play. And every child has the right to an education. They also have a right to safe spaces. In South Africa, children’s rights are enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution.

However, despite South Africa’s many strides towards a more democratic, rights-based society, children’s rights are routinely violated. Government and community policies at all levels need to take active and consistent account of children’s rights, and ensure they are respected.

Play Africa’s unique programmes help build children’s awareness of their rights, including their right to play. We offer developmentally-appropriate, playful learning opportunities for children to engage with concepts such as human dignity, democracy, negotiation and justice.

Sponsor a Day of Play for a child at Play Africa

Play and family

Play Africa is a fully-inclusive, interactive cultural institution that invites all children and families to come together to play, create, imagine and connect with one another.

In South Africa, many children grow up in homes with limited play experiences to stimulate their emotional and cognitive development. A recent study showed that nearly half of South Africa’s children have never drawn a picture or read a book with a parent or guardian.

We are able to operate in a low resourced context to ensure the delivery of high quality playful learning to a wide array of communities. We welcome field visits to our base at Constitution Hill, as well as providing pop-up learning events in communities.

In pioneering work with parent engagement programmes, we have worked with education leaders around the world to design programmes that raise parents’ awareness of the power of play in early and lifelong learning outcomes.

We also role-model ways to play to build parents’ play confidence. Our environment provides parents, and grandparents, with playful learning experiences and introductions to new concepts that some say they never got to experience in their own childhoods.

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Educational hub

Everyone who visits Play Africa can try new play experiences in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths that are locally relevant and rooted in educational pedagogies.

South Africa has made expanding access to quality learning a leading priority. Our vision directly aligns with the values enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution, as well as its National Development Plan 2030.

We are also aware of the urgent challenges facing our education system in South Africa. Of the 1.1 million who enter the school system at age 5, only 400,000 will graduate from high school. The challenge is particularly acute when it comes to STEM.

We’ve brought what we’ve learned from ongoing parent engagement into our teacher training. We provide access to research on the importance of play as well as play-based, interactive, and serve-and-return learning methodologies.

We’ve prototyped three educator training programmes, with input from experts at the School of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education’s Pedagogy of Play and Project Zero programmes, and the Africa Reggio Emilia Alliance.

Our vision is to build authentic relationships with educators in our community and around the world, while prototyping and learning how to create equitable spaces for high-quality early learning in our widely diffuse context.

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