Play accompanies childhood. Children have a natural need for action, and play supports their overall development and also brings them satisfaction and joy. It has a particularly important role in the development of the child’s brain.
Play is a basic right of every child. However, millions of children around the world have been deprived of the right to play by war, poverty, violence, and disease. In response to this violation, WWO has created Element of Play® (EOP), a program designed to bring about psychosocial change and support communities in areas of extreme poverty, disaster, crisis, and marginalization. The program was created with the understanding that adverse childhood experiences cause trauma to children. This trauma is the reason for them to miss important stages in their development and leads to lasting negative consequences in their lives, which has a cumulative effect on their communities.
The program is provided in communities with different cultures and needs, and usually with very limited resources. It adapts to different conditions with the main aim of providing access to positive experiences, learning through play, and learning for adults how to support children’s development in order for communities to function together and be healthy. The program is implemented in Ethiopia, Haiti, Vietnam, USA and Bulgaria.
In Bulgaria, the Element of Play® program has been imlemented since 2011 and consists of two components. The Early Childhood component has programs for children and families based on international best practices that are enriched and adapted to the local context and the Adult Learning component is based on specialized training programs for parents and training of professionals on early childhood development.
The implementation of the two program components aims at a holistic approach to child development, promotes the rehabilitation and development of local communities, supports families to nurture a strong and positive relationship with each other, creates professional networks in support of early childhood development. An important part of providing the program is measuring its impact on child development, families and communities; adult skills, and environment. For this purpose, we use a number of different tools to measure the impact.
The Element of Play® is a widely applicable program both for children aged between 0 – 8 years and their families, children and young people with different abilities; and for professionals working with children and families and to those professionally engaged in developing local and national policies for children at risk and their families.
The program is implemented through its two interrelated components:
EARLY CHILDHOOD COMPONENT
It consists of programs for working with children and families, based on international best practices and adapted to the Bulgarian context. The programs Element of Play® Toy, Element of Play® Music and
Element of Play® Story live their unique life in each of the places where they are implemented. They are adapted to the needs of the local communities and are applied with different intensities and duration of the play sessions. They are basic or complementary programs for working with children aged between 0 – 8 years. These programs meet the developmental needs of children using different communication channels. For some children, it is more enjoyable to play with toys and this gives them more joy. For others, music and movement are a way to express themselves and connect with others. And still, others develop their internal resources through storytelling and imagination. The three programs are in perfect symbiosis in working with children to support them meet their developmental milestones.