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Kids Collab: Reflections on our pathway to Open Education

04 June 2024

Expanding Kids Collab's holistic approach to Early Childhood Development

At Kids Collab, our commitment to nurturing young minds and bodies extends beyond our School Physical Development and Wellbeing Programme currently being piloted with the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE). While our school programme is a critical component of our mission, we recognise that a child's development is influenced by various factors across different environments. To create a holistic ecosystem for children to thrive, we have developed several complementary initiatives that focus on the home environment and the wider community. These initiatives include Play Parks and the Parent PlayBox, which we are implementing with partners in communities across South Africa. 

Addressing key societal issues

Our initiatives aim to tackle several societal challenges related to early childhood development (ECD) and parental involvement in education:

  1. Limited access to quality early childhood education: Many children, particularly those from marginalized communities, lack access to quality ECD programmes. According to UNICEF, about 175 million children under five are not enrolled in pre-primary education globally.
  2. Socioeconomic disparities in education: Children from disadvantaged backgrounds often face unequal access to educational opportunities, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality. UNESCO reports that children from the poorest households are nearly five times more likely to be out of school than those from the richest households.
  3. Insufficient support for caregivers: Caregivers in low-resourced communities may lack the necessary knowledge and skills to provide optimal care and stimulation for young children, which can hinder cognitive, social, and emotional development.
  4. Lack of safe play spaces: In many underserved communities, children face a significant challenge in finding safe and accessible areas to play and engage in physical activities. This issue has far-reaching implications for their physical, mental, and emotional development. 

By addressing these issues, Kids Collab aims to improve access to quality ECD resources, empower parents, caregivers, and community members and reduce disparities in early childhood education.

Our initiatives

Parent PlayBox

As the child's first teacher, caregivers assume a multifaceted role, providing nurturing care, fostering meaningful interactions, and imparting essential skills and knowledge. Their influence extends far beyond the confines of the home, permeating every aspect of the child's early experiences and shaping their worldview. Leveraging the expertise of Learn to Play and Kids Collab, this initiative offers a comprehensive ECD solution designed to empower parents in nurturing their children's development. 

Recognizing the pivotal role of caregivers, particularly for children aged zero to six, the project aims to equip caregivers with the confidence, knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to actively engage in their children's early learning and wellbeing within the home environment. Through curated kits featuring weekly activities and play prompts aligned with a holistic ECD framework, complemented by robust training, the Parent PlayBox initiative strives to foster meaningful caregiver-child interactions, encourage playful parenting practices, and bolster early years education and development.

Rachel and Whitney are presenting the Parent Playbox to a local community

Play Parks

The Play Parks initiative is dedicated to fostering healthy and active communities by providing free, accessible weekly physical activity sessions in local parks or community spaces. Tailored for children aged between two and thirteen years old, Play Parks aims to develop their fundamental movement skills, nurture social connections, and enhance engagement within the local community.

Representing a significant stride in combating physical inactivity and addressing the scarcity of play opportunities among South African children, Play Parks also serves to uplift communities and empower local community members.

A Kids Collab Play Park in collaboration with a local implemetation partner

The significance of local partnerships and collaborations

The significance of Kids Collab forming partnerships with local grassroots organizations to implement projects cannot be overstated. These collaborations are crucial as they enable us to tap into the deep-rooted knowledge, cultural insights, and established trust that these local entities have within their communities. By working alongside grassroots organizations, Kids Collab ensures that our initiatives are contextually relevant and effectively address the unique needs of each community. This localized approach not only enhances the impact and sustainability of our projects but also empowers local partners, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement.

Rachel and Whitney are training local communities to use the Parent Playbox

Harnessing transformative opportunities

Being open to different ways of working can open doors. In mid-2023, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and came across a call for South African innovations focused on the concept of play and building playful communities. This call was from an organization called Change X, which connects communities to proven ideas and funding. By empowering local changemakers with proven ideas from social innovators and accessible funding from their partners, Change X aims to build healthier, more inclusive, and sustainable communities. This particular fund was the South African Community Play Fund, supported by the LEGO Foundation, dedicated to creating more playful experiences for children in communities, schools, and neighbourhoods in South Africa.

We applied, not thinking much of it and not fully understanding the concept at first, but a few weeks later, we received an email saying we had been accepted into the fund! To be honest, we still hadn’t fully grasped what this meant, but we soon realized that we had been presented with the most incredible opportunity that opened our eyes to a different way of thinking and working. This opportunity allowed us to distribute 150 PlayBoxes and implement 17 Play Parks across South Africa over the course of a few months.

Due to the nature of the fund, we had to rethink some of our processes, such as conducting online training and developing a training-the-trainer model. We realized that this new way of thinking could further our impact and perhaps this was the shift in mindset that we needed at the time.

Opportunities with organizations such as Change X and the LEGO Foundation are pivotal not only in expanding our projects but also in connecting with communities across South Africa, particularly those often marginalized and lacking access to these types of initiatives. Change X has not only broadened our reach but also helped streamline our processes, making our initiatives more scalable and transferable. Beyond this, the backing from these well-known organizations has enhanced our credibility and opened doors to new networks and collaborative possibilities. To date, I have not come across a more innovative way to give social innovators like ourselves and communities game-changing opportunities.

By addressing key societal issues and empowering parents, caregivers, and communities, we strive to create a brighter future for all children

Kids Collab understands that a child's development is influenced by various factors across different environments. Our initiatives – the Parent PlayBox and Play Parks – complement our school-based solution, creating a holistic ecosystem for children to thrive. By addressing key societal issues and empowering parents, caregivers, and communities, we strive to create a brighter future for all children. Through strategic partnerships and innovative approaches, we are expanding our impact and making meaningful contributions to ECD in South Africa.