The Power to Play

Sarah Makes Her Own Doll

Video by Jake Lyell

In Uganda, videographer Jake Lyell was busy filming families who are struggling to stay together while coping with acute poverty and need. We’ll share these videos with you soon — they’re a tribute to the strength and determination of parents, children and others in their communities, as well as demonstrating the positive effect of outside support. In the meantime, watch Jake’s short video of 11-year-old Sarah, who shows us how she made her own doll.

Not Exactly Child’s Play

Uganda children's game

In Kafue, Zambia, 15-year-old Grace jumps over a rope strung between two trees, in a game called waida. She and her friend are competing to see who can jump higher.

In August on the website, we’ll be featuring stories and videos about playing, which has been called the job of children. Play helps them learn social skills like sharing and cooperation, and gain abilities like hand-eye coordination, motor skills, language and spatial awareness. In other words, kids need to play, but poverty constructs barriers that are hard to surmount.

This week on Huffington Post, ChildFund President & CEO Anne Goddard writes about poverty’s effects on children’s freedom to play: “In many developing countries, the time for play is often displaced by the chores and responsibilities that are so familiar to children growing up in poverty.”

Learn more about what play means to children.

They’re Ready for Football

Were you among the millions of people watching NFL football yesterday? The Denver-New England game was thrilling, and the Panthers are going to be formidable opponents for the Broncos. Children in the countries where we work also love playing games, especially football (aka soccer in the United States). Enjoy these pictures from Asia, the Americas and Africa. Goooooal!!!!

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A Hop, Skip and Jump

In August, we’ll be focusing on play — here on the blog and on ChildFund’s social media — and what it means to children’s physical, mental and social development. We asked our staff in Asia, Africa and the Americas to share pictures and quotes from children about their favorite sports, games and toys. One thing that’s striking is that some games are common to many children, regardless of age group, country and continent. As you’d expect, many of the children ChildFund works with are fans of soccer, but you’ll also see them playing with marbles or jumping rope. Many make their own toys out of materials found around their homes and communities. It takes a lot to keep children from playing, even when they don’t have toy stores around the corner.

Below is a slideshow of photos from Brazil, Ecuador and Ethiopia, all of girls jumping rope, a skill that requires good balance, stamina and high energy. Stay tuned throughout this month for more play!


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Soccer Fever Strikes

Brasil soccer

A photo taken by Marlon, a boy enrolled in ChildFund Brasil’s Photovoice program, shows neighborhood boys playing soccer. Are you watching the World Cup games from Rio de Janeiro?

Recognizing the Importance of Play in Children’s Lives

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Long before recorded history, children played. From the beginning, their play took three outward forms: conflict, imitation and chance. Play as conflict appears in games of skill and competitive sports. We associate imitation with cooperative games, such as role playing and creative or imaginative play. Games of chance — most familiar to us in cards and dice — often involve sticks, stones, shells, beads, or bones in developing countries.   

jumping rope

In Vietnam, a girl jumps rope.

We also know now that play is critical to children’s development, and many who live in developing countries do not have the time and opportunity to play with their peers, to lay down their worries for a moment and just be children.

Today is Universal Children’s Day, an event that aims for greater understanding of and among children of all nations. Its roots are in a 1954 United Nations conference when officials recommended that each country set aside a day for children. Nov. 20 has special meaning as the date on which the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and, 30 years later, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Educators describe play as the young child’s work. It’s more than self-expression. Unstructured play teaches children about the natural world, themselves and society. Through play, children develop motor and cognitive skills, learn cultural values and mature in emotional intelligence. Strategic thinking, pattern matching, problem solving, math mastery, negotiation, sensitivity to others and conflict resolution are just the beginning of play’s hidden benefits.

Kenya game

Children in Kenya play a jumping game.

If child’s play is the foundation of our intellectual, social, physical and emotional development, then play is education. And if education is human development, then development truly begins when each young child plays.

Last year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched Global Education First (GEFI), a new initiative raising the political profile of education. Its premise is that education leads to gender equality, economic opportunity, health and environmental sustainability. GEFI aims to put every child in school, provide them all with quality education and, ultimately, transform children into global citizens.

ChildFund also seeks to improve educational opportunities and learning environments in every community where we work.

Having taught both here in the United States and in Africa, I know there’s more to education than schools, equipment, materials and instructors, essential as they are. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child reminds us: “The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation.”

circle game

In Honduras, a circle game.

Play is universal; it comes naturally. Kids everywhere turn anything into a game. Think of hide-and-seek, kick-the-can, string games, Simon Says, clapping rhymes, rope skipping and hopscotch. You find them in Virginia, Eastern Europe, Southern Asia, Latin America and West Africa. In ChildFund International’s lobby, we have toys created by children in the countries we serve, playthings that demonstrate resourcefulness and creativity.

In developing countries, children play with scrap materials. A stick turns a wheel rim into a perpetual motion machine. Gathering up discarded plastic shopping bags, village boys weave them into soccer balls. Empty aluminum cans and bottle caps morph into toy animals or race cars. In a girl’s hands, a bit of cloth, some string and a corn husk become a doll.

Here in the United States, we’re blessed with leisure and money to spend on play dates, soccer lessons and computer games. But when play becomes our babysitter, we tend to forget its true value in children’s lives.

Kristina, a tutor at an Early Childhood Development center in Indonesia, often makes toys from available resources, including recycled materials, that teach her children about shapes and numbers. “With these resources, they get to play with a range of different educational toys, and we know that they are learning while enjoying being a child,” she says. “I wish I had these when I was a child.”

Children Create Toys from Trash

by Cynthia Price, ChildFund Director of Communications

’Tis the season for thinking about toys.

But what if there is no toy store? What if there is no money for toys?

In developing countries, children have shown an amazing amount of creativity when it comes to fashioning toys for play. Some children have taken broken flip-flops, scrap plastic bags, twigs and string and made a toy sailboat.

Other children have created soccer balls using discarded plastic bags and heavy twine. They’ve made kites using paper, string and bamboo.

Many of these innovative toys are on view as part of ChildFund’s traveling exhibit, The Power to Play: From Trash to Treasure. This holiday the exhibit is on display at the Idaho State Historical Museum through Feb. 5, 2011.

“The Idaho Historical Museum acts as a resource for Idaho history as well as a cultural center to expose Idaho citizens to the people of the world,” says Kurt Zwolfer, education specialist for the museum. “By viewing the creativity and resourcefulness exhibited by the children who made these toys, we hope our visitors will have a better understanding of the universal language of play.”

ChildFund's Anne Lynam Goddard (left) meets with museum staff.

“It’s the perfect holiday display,” says Anne Schorzman, events coordinator for the museum. “We think it will inspire many when they come to see the exhibit.”

In addition to the collection of toys, the museum also created interactive pieces, ideal for children visiting the museum. Children can bowl, make beaded snakes and play instruments from everyday items.

ChildFund International has long recognized play as essential to childhood development. Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO says, “We are sharing this toy collection as a visible demonstration of how the power to play helps children thrive and become leaders of enduring change in their communities and the world.”

The toy collection has traveled across the United States with stops at museums and venues in Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Denver and New York.

Children’s Toys Take the Spotlight at ChildFund Event

by Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

ChildFund's Power to Play exhibit at New World Stages runs through Sept. 6.

Toys made by children from around the world took center stage last night in New York City.

ChildFund’s toy exhibit “The Power to Play” opened last night at New World Stages, 340 West 50th St.

Time Out New York and NTDTV covered the opening reception. Donors from the New York area previewed the toys before the exhibit officially opened to the public.

Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund, told the audience, “Every show has a star, and the real stars tonight are the children who made the toys.

“The toys they made offer dramatic proof that – through it all – children can retain their sense of wonder, their desire to play, their indomitable spirit, and their ability to imagine and create…if they are given the support they need,” she continued.

Many of the toys on display tell compelling stories of the particular social, economic or political conditions present in the children’s home countries, while others reflect similarities across regions in type of play and crafting technique. Some children use twigs, plastic bags and string to make kites, cut open soda cans to fashion toy cars and bind dried banana leaves to bring dolls to life.

Among the guests at the opening reception was Dayton Carr, a long-time ChildFund supporter who sponsors two children and has funded a playground in Liberia and a program for disabled children in Belarus.

Mick Foley and his wife Collette attended. Mick, a former wrestler and now author and philanthropist, has funded eight schools in Sierra Leone and community centers in the Philippines and Mexico. He is currently funding a program to help former girl soldiers in Sierra Leone. He sponsors seven children.

ChildFund’s former board chairman Bill Leahey and his wife Chris also were in attendance. They sponsor four children and have funded a library in Ethiopia.

Irene Sanz and Maureen Massey admire the exhibit.

Long-time supporter Irene Sanz and ChildFund board member Maureen Massey and her husband Ivor spent some time reminiscing about their recent ChildFund study tour to Kenya.

Integrated Media Solutions, which sponsors 60 children, hosted the evening’s reception.

As part of the reception, guests were asked to contribute to the building of playgrounds in Afghanistan. An anonymous gift of $10,000 and several additional donations will be used to equip the playgrounds.

The toy exhibit continues through Sept. 6. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

With previous stops in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston and Atlanta, the toy collection will next head to Idaho in October.

Denver Sponsors Share Their ChildFund Stories

by Stephanie Phillips, ChildFund special assistant

It’s always inspiring to hear from ChildFund’s long-term supporters. At ChildFund’s Power to Play toy exhibit at the Denver Press Club, we were reminded once again of the rewards of child sponsorship.

Long-time sponsor Jean O'Toole

Long-time donor Jean O’Toole from Fort Collins, Colo., has sponsored 19 children through ChildFund for more than 40 years. She summed up what she thought being a supporter was all about: “I am everybody who sponsors a child. I am a small brick in the bottom row of the foundation of ChildFund International. Without the bottom row you couldn’t have the top of the pyramid,” O’Toole said.

She also shared photo albums and scrapbooks from her years of sponsoring children around the world. O’Toole has kept every letter and picture she has received from her sponsored children—including the original ad that sparked her interest in the organization 40 years ago.

Eric Seversen, another long-time sponsor from Boulder, performed his song, “Power to Play,” which he wrote to complement ChildFund’s Power to Play video featuring children constructing toys for the exhibit.

Eric Seversen performs.

Seversen’s song is written as if though the eyes of the children who made the toys: All I have known is poverty and fear, but I could be a pilot, or a teacher or engineer! The power to play…

As Seversen’s song ended, all eyes glanced over at the toys on the exhibit tables. Everyone knew that the children who had made the toys face the hardship of poverty every day. Children used their resilience and creativity to make toys to entertain themselves, develop their skills and persevere through life.

The Power of Play exhibit acknowledges children’s struggle and celebrates their achievements.

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