Playful parenting in Zambia amidst the COVID-19 pandemic | #parenting

As the mother of a newborn, one of the key lessons that has stayed with her from those sessions is to start playful interactions early with her child, even when in the first few weeks they are just watching things around them.

“Before we participated in playful parenting sessions, most of the children would be at observer stage (where a child is less interactive to the happenings around them) for longer than it should be because we as parents were too busy with other things,” says Faustina. “Taking time to play with the children seemed to be time wasting.”

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, after all household chores and farming activities were done, I would participate in playful parenting sessions at the Mphala [hub] with other caregivers and parents from the community,” she says. “The sessions proved to be helpful so far as children that have been born after the lessons are more active and stronger.”

The community-based Insaka approach focuses on the establishment of community based ECD centres – Insakas – which are parenting hubs for nurturing care at the community level. The hubs also act as platforms for integrated community development, including promoting good nutrition, learning through play and adult literacy.

“The Insaka hub provides playful parenting sessions for different age groups. As parents we are taught how to make toys and play instruments using local materials that are fun and age appropriate,” says Faustina. During the early months of the child’s growth, play activities are focused on the development of senses such as sight, hearing and feeling.

“At the hub we were not only taught how to play with children, we also were taught on child nutrition and its benefits. Understanding how to feed children different foods that make up a proper balanced diet,” says Faustina. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic we stopped meeting at the hub, we stay home and relay on the past knowledge obtained from the sessions we had before the pandemic.”

Peter Phiri also used to attend sessions at the hub. “Having attended a couple of parenting sessions with my wife at the hub gave us lots of insights and parenting and an understanding of why children behave as they do and also knowledge on age appropriate games,” he says.

Parenting during the pandemic has been critical. Regardless of the challenges faced during the pandemic, one positive is that the family gets to spend more time together than before. And Peter Phiri has taken advantage of the extra time to find local materials to make toy instruments for his daughters to play with, and he assists his wife more with some of the home chores.

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