One of the delights of working with children in Cambodia is seeing them develop their skills at play. Many children are completely under-resourced in this department. They may be from families too poor to have toys, or too time-poor to give children the play time they really need. Children go through distinct stages of play development when they move from merely reacting to objects – to employing these objects in acts of imagination. Later children enjoy playing alone, but in groups, and still later – around age 6 or 8 – in groups. That simple game of Uno is actually a sophisticated interplay of intellect and social skills.
Of course children don’t just learn academically: play is a vital ingredient. But toys are not enough. Many adults think that somehow children will spontaneously “get it” when they see a pile of blocks. Actually they need to be shown – and getting on the floor, interacting with the child, and showing how blocks can be used to make things is the trigger: a simple trigger, that gets them going. In the photo above little Nuon seemed a bit lost in the play room. He was too young to play cards and he didn’t seem to get involved with the blocks. So I lay on the floor and together we made houses and vehicles and soon he was grabbing the wheels (a scarce commodity) to make his particular inventions.
I love those moments. Sometimes an educational advance is that simple: a few minutes of attention on a playroom floor.
New developments in Cambodian child care. Click here.