Published on Voices

A lesson from Jamaica: playing with your child is the most powerful way to develop their mind

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Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica to interview and tape researchers and subjects of   Can Disadvantaged Kids Ever Catch up with Better-Off Peers?, an evaluation of the study on the benefits of an early childhood intervention. In a nutshell the study found that, the sooner you engage and play with your kids, the more developed their brains will be, the higher their IQs, the lower their aggression, and the higher their earning potential later in life.
Globally, there is rightfully a lot of emphasis on early childhood education – there are many preschool programs that begin at age three. This particular program challenges parents to engage the minds of children who are even younger – as young as six months old even. Simple concepts like “on” and “off” can be modeled with building blocks.  You can stack the blocks “on” each other and then take them “off” the stack one by one. You can “lay” the blocks down and “push” them to create a train.
As an expectant first-time mother, this idea struck me as so simple. So obvious.
Why not explain to your child that a spoon is for eating: not just “this is a spoon”, but “this is a spoon – we use it to eat our soup”. Something to engage the mind in understanding function and object together, early on. The theory behind this early engagement was that disadvantaged children can benefit from this early play, helping to counter the potential effects of stunting and other poverty-related ailments on the developing brain.
Since finding out about my pregnancy, I’ve constantly imagined different ways on how I can educate my child. I want her to learn all about the world around her. I want her to travel and to learn different languages. I want her to become a doctor and a lawyer and an artist and a musician and a mathematician.  After visiting with and speaking to the beneficiaries of this program in Jamaica, I finally realized that all I need to do to help my daughter engage with the world around her is to engage with HER. Play with her, talk to her, give her love, affection and attention – and her future will be bright.
Infographic: The Power of Play


Aisha Faquir

Online Communications Associate

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