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The Gift of Failure, by Jessica Lahey

The Gift of Failure: how to step back and let your child succeed.

Reviewed by Isabelle, mother of 2, Hampshire.

Star rating (4 out of 5) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“The setbacks, mistakes, miscalculations and failures we have shoved out of our children’s way are the very experiences that teach them how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative and resilient citizens of this world”

My son, whose issues with self-organisation are a constant source of conflict in our house, recently forgot to pack in his book bag the research that he required to complete a project at school. I spotted the papers in his room, lectured him about ‘putting things where they belonged’ and handed them to him before drop off.  According to Jessica Lahey, the author of ‘The Gift of Failure’, that was exactly the wrong thing to do.

Lahey’s book is a call to arms for parents to back off. In our quest to provide our children with love, happiness, security and self-confidence, we have taught them that we will always be there to protect them from their mistakes.

Our natural parental instinct to love and provide is amplified by the increasing pressure for the children to succeed both academically and in extra-curricular activities at an ever-earlier age and a culture of fear that keeps our children cooped up and supervised. However, this type of over-parenting is having the opposite effect. Lahey states that “the setbacks, mistakes, miscalculations and failures we have shoved out of our children’s way are the very experiences that teach them how to be resourceful, persistent, innovative and resilient citizens of this world”.

‘The Gift of Failure’ is divided into three parts. Part I is the manifesto. In it, Lahey argues her case for stepping back and draws from research into growth mindset, creativity and resilience to support her argument. This made for compelling – and, yes, uncomfortable reading and was my favourite part of the book.

The second part provides more examples for what stepping back might look like in practice. It is ambitious in its breadth, both in terms of the age group and the situations it covers.  As a result, it spreads itself too thin and comes across as simplistic. Each chapter could have been a book unto itself! The key points are:

  • Parents need to provide opportunities for children to develop and demonstrate competence, no matter how uncomfortable, slow and frustrating parents might find the process.
  • Friends are key in our children’s development. Free play develops social skills, problem solving and resilience and parents should learn to step back and not intervene too early when conflicts arise, whether for toddlers or primary school age children. For parents of teens, find ways to support but not control your children’s social interactions.
  • Sports are supposed to be fun, so ease the pressure on the children: maintain good court-side etiquette, don’t criticise the coach and see failures as opportunity for growth.
  • The early teenage years are time to develop executive function skills such as planning, self-organisation, self-control and study skills. “The key to helping kids create the systems they need to gain executive function is to let them fail, let them feel the pain and inconvenience of their mistakes, and then support them in their efforts to rework the bugs”.
  • Late adolescents particularly need the leeway to become functioning independents adults.

Lahey is a teacher and Part III focuses on the parent / school relationship. Our fear of failure undermines education because “kids need the space to fail, and teachers need the time and benefit of the doubt to let that failure play out in the form of learning.” She dedicates a whole chapter to behaviours that parent ought to adopt to trust and support teachers.

Despite my reservations about Part II, I highly recommend the book. It made me question how I parent my children and has encouraged me to apply different strategies (albeit so far very inconsistently!). I have always been fairly relaxed about physical dangers and have given my children space to roam, climb and fail.

However the cost of failure seems very high and while I intuitively agree that in the long term my children will be better off for learning from their failure, it is difficult to apply day-to-day and see a child fall behind.

I would love a follow-up book with specific case studies and tips. I also imagine that if my children were nearer to the age of taking exams, I would welcome a plan for how to transition to this new way of parenting without allowing for catastrophic failures.

As far as what I should have done with my son’s research, Jessica says I should let him suffer the consequences of not being able to complete his work. I have since created a checklist of items he is supposed to have ready for school on various days (including any homework). It is by our back door, for him to use every morning. Next time I see forgotten homework, or musical instrument, or PE kit, I will remind him to check the list and will say no more.

Nurturing Nature

“Nurturing Natures; Attachment and Children’s Emotional, Sociocultural and Brain Development” by Graham Music

Reviewed By Mel Newton, Mother of 1, Sussex

Rich in the most current scientific research, yet engaging and accessible; A deeply informative and inspiring read for anyone involved with the care and wellbeing of children and young people.

Star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Graham Music is a widely experienced psychotherapist who works with children, adolescents, adults and families. Music has taken the most current scientific research findings in several key areas of children’s development, and distilled them into this easily readable and highly informative book.

‘Nurturing Natures’ provides a thorough exploration of children’s developmental processes and needs from pre-birth to adolescence; and pays particular attention to the child’s emotional and social development. The main topics covered are;  attachment, early brain development and the nervous system, childcare and parenting roles, siblings and gender, learning and play, cultural influences, childhood trauma and resilience.

This book is large and detailed and is presented almost like a handbook, so that it can be dipped into for specific areas of interest. The diversity of information is also well enough integrated that it can be read in one go – if you are a serious reader! Despite the amount of information in the book to digest, the research and facts presented are so interesting, and Music’s voice so warm and engaging, I was able to enjoy reading the whole book through in one (slow) go.

I think this book will particularly appeal to those who are interested in famous psychological experiments and who like to understand how we humans tick. It will also appeal to those who really want to make scientifically informed decisions on their approach to child care. In addition, with its detailed exploration of the role of play in the child’s learning and development, this book will be of much interest to anyone working with or interested in children’s play.

The main strengths of Music’s writing for me are balance and sensitivity.  As an overview, the book addresses the age old nurture/nature debate in a very balanced way. Current research into neuroscience and genetics seems to lean towards the influence of nurture in child development, but Music provides examples of research from both sides of the debate and offers a balanced and fascinating description of how nurture and nature influence each other.

Another way that the book takes a wide and balanced view, is by looking at issues such as child care and adoption within broader social and cultural contexts. For example, Music discusses how common adoption, or temporary child rearing outside of the immediate family is in other societies such as Papua New Guinea or Brazil, and how different the impacts are in these contexts to our own society where this is rarer.   Music also discusses, with much insight, subjects not well-covered by many parenting or child care books; such as the role of fatherhood, and parenting in non-traditional families.

Music provides incredible research into foetal and early infant development that would make enriching reading for new parents. A word of warning though, for parents who had difficulties or were unsupported at this stage this could make for tough reading. Having said this, Music tackles emotive topics like pre-birth stress and foetal development, prematurity, and bonding/attachment difficulties with great sensitivity; and again, with balance, non-judgement and a wider context view.

As a parent, I think I will find the sections on the adolescence most useful in a short time ahead. As a professional, I will be recommending this book often and I think will be quoting a lot of the relevant research from the book in meetings!

The Whole-Brain Child

The Whole Brain Child – 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture your Child’s developing Mind

“If you know yourself to be someone who is super logical and very left brain dominant, who may need some help emotionally coaching and connecting with your child…go for it. But for everyone else,  I’d say don’t read this expecting 12 strategies. There’s really only one or two”

“On the fence as I am, I’d give it 3 stars I think. Better for those wholly fresh to the subject” 

By Mel Wilde, mother of 2, London

Just finished ‘The Whole Brain Child – 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind’ Siegel & Bryson…

I REALLY wanted to read this book, straight from the get go. I was drawn to the cover blurb, which emphasised this was a practical book, with lots of explanation on not just the left and right side of my child’s brain, but also the top and the bottom. Since I’m a fan of developing my boys’ emotional literacy I was curious. Turns out we keep learning more and more about the brain, especially in the last 25 years and the top and bottom of the brain and the amygdala are a whole other ballgame. They’re not like left and right, logic and feeling. This upstairs, downstairs brain is instinct, memory, trauma storage and flight drive.

My goal as a parent is (to raise) a resilient child. If I do my job right, in the future, most of the time he will know how to help himself or ask for comfort. He’ll be happier, connected and empowered. This stuff is big and nothing to do with how well he test scores. Mostly. I know, how he looks after himself and interprets the world and those around him will mostly come from our parenting. So… back to this book, I was keen!

Like most parents I know, we’re all super aware that our children are in development They’re just beginning to learn to emotionally self regulate, but they don’t have enough experience yet to always pull it off. So, if a red alert just went off in the instinct part of their brain or in their memory because something scary reminds them of something else scary, we get a double whammy reaction. I know this already, on a simplistic level. Could Siegel and Bryson teach me anything new?

Well… yes… but not nearly enough. Won over by what were set to be 12 strategies, to coach my child, the book’s language is often a turn off and I had to dig deep to stick with it.

The twelve strategies: Name it to tame it (acknowledging feelings, showing empathy); Connect and Redirect (kind of the same);  Engage don’t enrage (more of the same);  Use it or lose it (a little more of the same but also coaching your child to assess risk or problem solve for themselves to aid them when you are not around); Move it or lose it (using physical activity to reduce overwhelming emotion before talking)… Certainly, for anyone new to guides on emotionally coaching your children, there is useful content in here. For me, nerdy prolific reader who has encountered a lot of this stuff before, I was underwhelmed. Largely because it took almost 80 pages to tell me some basics. Namely, when my child is showing big emotions – in whatever context- I need to:

  •  acknowledge / name the feeling
  • empathise with the feeling
  • get a chat started where they can open up and replay the cause
  • and then together try and problem solve (possibly with you telling a similar story of your own for them to advise you on what to do – but only if they’re having trouble opening up).

This is my main criticism of the book, because some of the other 12 strategies could be summarised pretty much as I just did above, in 4 bullet points. Though the brain bits are fascinating, the 12 practical strategies don’t truly feel that numerous.

So, is it actually worth a read then… ? Well, begrudgingly, yes and here’s why.

The big hit is the chapter on memory and trauma storage.

Most of us, understandably, dread the day anything bad happens to our children that can’t be solved by the above or a Mr Men plaster. But, we don’t get to control everything and life happens and we need to model for our children how to cope. Three years ago on a family holiday, my eldest nearly drowned. He was literally in the process for over a minute and he was 3 years old. It was a situation that, retrospectively, beggars belief and ought to have been entirely preventable. At 6, now a fish in the water, he still remembers it. I hadn’t read this book then, so we sought out lots of professional advice for our understandably swimming phobic pre schooler.

The memory chapter explains what goes on in the brain wiring when a very scary event happens to someone with too little experience at processing big emotions.  Actually, the process in the brain it could be any adult facing any trauma that is big. What we learned, which Siegel and Bryson support, is conversationally revisiting what happened often, but in a safe way is good. What’s fantastic is that they offer tips on how. By doing this, one can actually help the brain not to turn the fear into a trauma memory for life.

For any parent, that’s got to be worth a read. For everything else… I’m on the fence. If you know yourself to be someone who is super logical and very left brain dominant, who may need some help emotionally coaching and connecting with your child…go for it. But for everyone else,  I’d say don’t read this expecting 12 strategies. There’s really only one or two.

Review for “The Genius of Natural Childhood”

 

“Really good informative, easy to use book about how important nursery rhymes, fairy tales and music to the development of children.I would highly recommend this book for all parents and professionals”
” I give this book a 5 star rating.”
By Kate Parker, mother of 3, Hampshire

The style of the book (The Genius of Natural Childhood by Sally Goddard Blyth, published by the Hawthorne Press)  is for it to be dipped into as well as read from cover to cover.  It is aimed at both professionals and parents which I think it does very well.  It is one of the few books where reading the Introduction is not only interesting but useful towards the rest of the book!  Sally lays it out so that a few chapters are for use (straight dipping into for parents), interspersed with chapters explaining the reasons behind the dipping into chapters (for parents who want to know why and professionals).  I think that the ‘dipping into chapters’ could be closer to the beginning to make it more enticing to the parent, but that is a personal choice.  For me, it did feel like wading through a lot of information before I got to the stuff that I could do, interesting though it was.

I wish that I had read this book before I had my first child as I would have loved to use the rhymes and songs and stories that the author uses.  I will be introducing them to my children even now as I know how much enjoyment they get from rhymes and rhymes that require movement or being touched.  The book emphasises how important sound, rhythm and reading to children is on many levels without being too forceful about it.  This we do already but it convinces me how important it is to keep reading to my children especially at night-time.

One aspect really intrigued me was the use of fairy tales and how some of them seem horrible to us as adults (even if we know the story) but to children they are a means of teaching subtle ideas such as greed, kindness, hope, love, envy without actually describing them and her opinion is that children take on board the ideas without worrying about the more negative aspects of the human character.

I think the title of the book is misleading and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up as a book to read, however, reading the back I might have done.  My opinion is that neither the back nor the front do the content justice if they are trying to appeal to parents as well as professionals.  This is a shame as a parent this book is such a fantastic resource.

Sally does mention the difference between girls and boys and their development.  I found this interesting as I have both and it gave me confidence to see and understand how they will grow and what I can do to help them.

 

Falling off ponies

Now fall off…

As a kid, at the end of a riding lesson I was always encouraged to fall off my pony, learn to tumble, and getting up unhurt, dust off my knees and get back on again! What I was learning was that falling off wasn’t a big deal.

For kids, learning to “fall off” – learning to take reasonable risks,  – even understanding what a reasonable risk is, is an absolutely vital part of their education for preparation for adult life. It is important for kids to learn that making mistakes is part of the (creative) process and to learn from these. We cannot control everything in adult life and it is vital we learn to work with such situations. 

Risk factor

Most of us know it, we have heard it a hundred times or more – risk is good for kids on many significant levels, but somehow we still find it difficult to expose our kids to challenges we relished as children. Children are hard wired in fact to seek out risky situations, to experience them and learn about their boundaries and abilities, they will always want to swing higher, jump further or go faster.

But what are kids learning when they take risks? Paul Tough’s excellent book How Children Succeed talks about the character qualities kids need to “succeed” in this world. Tough describes how resilience, self motivated and resourcefulness are vital qualities to take kids into adulthood. All these qualities are encouraged by kids taking on and meeting challenges through taking risks in play.

What ever next?

So what are we achieving by keeping our kids so “safe”? I suspect a generation of young people who lack confidence, who shy away from challenges, who don’t understand their own boundaries or abilities on many levels; socially, mentally, emotionally, physically, creatively and who just happen to be part of a rising obesity epidemic… We are simply not preparing our children for adulthood in a challenging world.

Simple Solutions

And it doesn’t take much to turn things around – start by letting kids climb a tree, climb on a wall outside the super market – try something new that brings a relevant challenge to their own personal levels of abilities. Bring into their lives a culture of challenge where they need to learn to manage and strive beyond their immediate comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be life threatening but perhaps just a little exciting…

Related articles

Risky outdoor play positively impacts on children’s health 

Risky Play: Why children love it and need it

Children should engage in risky play

Related Books

How children succeed by Paul Tough

Risk and adventure in early years outdoor play: Learning from Forest schools by Sarah Knight

 Related Blog

www.freerangekids.com

Junk Modelling

Kids; creative opportunists!

Children have an uncanny knack of spotting opportunity where adults struggle to, and turning junk, or waste products, into valuable resources is one glorious way children do this.

Unleash potential through junk modelling

In my view, it’s the most wonderful and uplifting creative activity.  I love how it unleashes the huge variety of possibility in little minds, nothing seems too “out there” for the young creatives and it is a brilliant way to unleash every child’s inner engineer, innovator, artist, creative.

How kids benefit

Children learn about their world and how to interact with it through experience. The creative environment that junk modelling generates helps kids develop confidence in creative reasoning and how to assess problems and possibilities conceptually and practically.

Developmental benefits of junk modelling start with kids using fine motor skills and tools and learning about materials, textures, properties and how to manipulate them. The valuable skill of spotting an opportunity and turning that idea in to something actual and structural – is a highly sought after skill in today’s fast evolving world.

junk modelling

Junk modelling is a great opportunity to develop those fine motor skills

Social and language skills

Beyond the creative and structural skills also lie the use of language, interpretation, description and negotiation . One of the great things about junk modelling is that it suits all age groups and abilities so you can have everyone working together.

The children will benefit from this interaction with a wide range of ages, it encourages the little ones to extend their practise and their learning and helps the older ones to look out for and encourage the younger ones.  Children tend to extend their development and take more risks when they are not being overseen by adults.  This creates great learning opportunities, such as older children verbally explaining  their creative process to little ones with an awareness they may not have used had they been with peers or adults.

junk modelling

Junk modelling creates perfect opportunities for kids to practise their social skills

Feel good factor

And of course there are those wonderful feelings of satisfaction, self confidence and accomplishment that the children can experience from creating something special and unique. This is a great opportunity for parents and educators to acknowledge and reiterate their children’s accomplishments to them, maybe commending them on how they have worked in a team or how they have solved a particular problem or created something particularly ingenious and unique. Compliments should be specific, not general.  “Good cutting!” will sound hollow to your child but “I like how you managed to cut around that eye hole” sounds much more personalised and relevant.

Here is what kids will need from you;

Space

A flat surface -a floor, a table, the garden -something that can be either washed down or covered for protection against glue and paint. Don’t laden and distract kids with endless and boring points about not making a mess – most things are washable and if they are not, don’t get creative near them!

Time

Allow a good couple of hours for this activity, no rushing! This will enable children to immerse themselves in the activity and maybe to experience a glorious phase of flow.

Opportunity

Give your kids plenty of encouragement and creative space. Let their imagination run wild, there is no need to get hung up on whether the object in question “looks like” a train, and there is certainly no need to create restrictions such as “Let’s make a lady bird”. Maybe your 4 year old doesn’t see a lady bird when she looks at the margarine tub, maybe she sees something totally different…

Freedom

It is important to let this creative experience be the children’s creative experience and not simply following your instruction.  Stand back from the process as much as possible and only get involved to scaffold, where needed.

Junk

Clean junk from your own recycling, anything goes – best avoid sharp and serrated edges and objects that can be swallowed easily…

For those that haven’t had the good fortune to come across Scrap Store, there are 75 in the country, lovingly recycling off industry’s unwanted materials.  This open brief means that Scrap Stores channel a huge variety of scrap material with possibilities that would bring tears to the eyes of any inventor, engineer, creative worth his or her salt.

A trip to your local Scrap Store would go down a treat!

Tools

Scissors, effective ones – kids need to learn how to use these. Don’t underestimate your little one’s fine motor skills. Keep an eye out for them but give them as much freedom to practise as you feel comfortable with.

junk modelling

Don’t underestimate your children’s ability to use tools safely

Glue – a stick of glue and PVA

Paint – get a good quality paint with good rich pigment.  This can be mixed with PVA glue to create a paint that can easily go over plastics and stick!

Materials – Paper, tin foil, string, glitter, stick ons,  basically anything you can raid from the craft shop or stationers or from the home.

Images provided and beautifully illustrated by Dani Gaines at Art For You, a vibrant community interest company based in Bolton. For more information please contact Dani at www.artforyoucic.co.uk

Other useful websites

Hobby Craft

Arts and Crafts for Kids

Nurture store

The Imagination Tree

The Scrap Store UK

Free to Learn

Free to learnPeter Gray’s book Free to Learn (Basic Books 2013) is an informed and absorbing account of how children are designed to physiologically learn through play and which are the most ideal conditions for them to learn in.

Gray brings to us a vast range of evidence to illustrate his belief that children learn best from themselves and discusses how children’s innate sense of playfulness, sociability and curiosity combines to create extraordinary fertile conditions for learning.

Children cannot help but learn through play when given the opportunity and Gray looks at Hunter Gatherer societies to establish the original conditions that human children would have learnt in and how our brains are organically structured to learn.

Gray looks at the history of education to explain the present structure of schools and how they are outdated for the kind of learning we need for today. Gray argues that schools do not leverage children’s natural learning abilities and often run contrary to them.

Children’s natural and insatiable ability to learn is illustrated through various fascinating case studies such as Sudbury Valley school in the States where there are no lessons, and various inspiring projects that Sugata Mitra has carried out in India. Learning for Gray is far broader than ABC and I can guarantee you will never read a school report in the same light again!


Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College, is author of Free to Learn (Basic Books, 2013) and Psychology (Worth Publishers, a college textbook now in its 7th edition).  He has conducted and published research in comparative, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology. He did his undergraduate study at Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in biological sciences at Rockefeller University. His current research and writing focus primarily on children’s natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play.

Moors Valley Trio

I rarely say “be careful” to my kids…

I rarely say “be careful” to my kids… only “concentrate” or “awareness…” (in a sterner voice). I find this to be the most effective way of getting them to slow down and think about what they are doing. I don’t want to make them fearful of what they are doing, more over I feel it puts the responsibility of the feat they are undertaking in their hands, albeit under my very watchful eye.

Don’t think I am reckless with my children’s safety. I simply feel that I am helping prepare them for the challenges they will meet in life; real, physical, professional, emotional, characterful challenges, by emotionally taking on what they experience in their childhood. And this is what imaginative play and risky play does for our children.

One of our favourite places to play is Moors Valley Country Park. Moors Valley is a joint venture between East Dorset District Council and the Forestry Commission, set in a forest with cycle tracks, adventure play grounds, miniature steam engines, lakes and lots more (They do good coffee and ice creams too!).

We have been going to this forest for about 6 years and it has evolved with my children’s expanding abilities and boundaries. This forest is the perfect example of good quality play and design and provides a thoroughly engaging play experience for children of all ages. One of the keys to a play experience being enriching for me is the quality of the play tool, that it is versatile, simple, engaging and provides various opportunities for use as the children feel is needed.

Moors Valley offers plenty to do for all of the family but I am only going to talk only about the Play Trail today, which easily takes up a full day in my family’s book! The Play Trail runs for about a mile through woodland and along this route you will come across various wooden play structures for the kids to play on and in. These structures are beautifully made of wood and ropes, they are creative and simple in format and evoke such grisly and enticing topics as a Snake Pit (involving the children gleefully disappearing down long wooden snake tunnels through the snakes open mouths!), Spiders Web, Crocodile Crossing, or even more scary, The house of Baba Yaga (my kids favourite).

I remember starting the trail with one 6 year old boy a while back who was generally timid and lacked confidence in his physical skills. After he successfully and stealthily crossed the Crocodile Crossing (involving balancing and walking along a long, narrow, shoulder height bridge) you could see his courage rising, he jumped off that structure a confident and happy chap and raced off with his friends to take on the next structure, a complete change to the boy that entered the wood cautious to let go of his mother’s leg!

Timber obstacle course

Negotiating the Timber obstacle course.

Timber! encourages the children to climb up a hill of fallen timber that have created a Jengar like path that you have to thread your way through, negotiating tricky passes from one fallen piece of timber to the next. This involves climbing at height, balancing, negotiating crossings, it involves strength, concentration, decision making and nerve. These lengths of timber are not just ground level but often high up, leaning against other pieces of timber, carved to create foot holes. I could literally see my 6 year old girl inflate with pride when she first completed the course, and I saw her confidence in her own ability soar whilst my own expectations of her physical abilities and her sense of courage was challenged.

Our current favourite is The house of Baba Yaga. This fantastic wooden acorn like house can be accessed by climbing in and exited by sliding down poles. It has a fantastic internal and external sand distribution system for moving the sand from outside to the inside and back again in a cycle with troughs, pulleys and buckets and this totally engages children’s imagination.

The Baba Yaga House

The Baba Yaga House

Inside Baba Yaga's House

Inside Baba Yaga’s House

I love to watch children play here, the set up encourages children to work in groups, maybe a mixture of friends they have come with and friends they have just met. The ages are invariably mixed too, so you get little ones learning more from working with older kids and the older ones looking out for and nurturing the younger ones. The kids learn to negotiate, work in teams, communicate and problem solve, they play imaginatively and they challenge themselves physically. The level of focus and engagement in this play is remarkable and encouraging, this is what good quality play looks and feels like!

At the end of the day my children return to the car, invariably walking barefoot along the dusty paths in the woodland, tired, happy, grubby and totally played out. A perfect day!

YUWA

When football is not just a game

Usually when CFP blogs it is with reference to a Western understanding of childhood and playfulness. Capturing hard evidence of creative free play’s benefits can be hard, though – much of it is subtle and intangible, with it filtering through in the child’s character as they mature.

Without doubt, the impact of creative free play on character is one of its most profound benefits. As psychologist Peter Gray says: “We must accept play’s triviality in order to realise its profundity”. (Free to Learn)

So for a change, today’s blog is looking at how play has significantly affected lives of children in Jharkhand, rural India, by making a real and tangible impact on the lives and futures for lower caste girls.

Yuwa is an organisation that uses football programmes as a platform to help girls shape their future. It does this by encouraging them to continue with school, and by creating a strong sense of team spirit, determination and support.

Its work is particularly poignant in Jharkard where the odds are staked against lower caste girls. There is an 80% drop-out rate in high school; 100,000 girls are trafficked every year; an estimated 50% of girls married are child brides; and only 56% of girls can read or write.

When a girl joins a Yuwa football team, she also joins Yuwa’s academic bridge program. This includes dynamic workshops about the importance of education, assistance transferring to better schools, remedial math and science classes, daily English classes, an intensive summer school, personal tutoring, and computer classes.

Education is the best protection against child marriage in Jharkard. Girls in high school are not married and Yuwa girls, in particular, not only have their formal education nurtured but also benefit from the strong team bonds got from playing football. That help gives them a sense of empowerment, grit, ambition and social confidence.

Playing football delivers a strong sense of team spirit that is very important to these girls – not only with the development of personal attributes but also in a very real sense with the practical support and encouragement they get from each other as a group.

In a world where the importance of play can be trivialised, Yuwa provides a beautiful and inspiring example of children learning through play and the importance of character in the development of children.

For further information please visit YUWA.

Hole in the wall

Kids insatiable drive to learn

What do you think it takes to create a learning opportunity? And how far is the human mind designed to learn against the odds, in almost any condition? We try to create ideal working and playing conditions for our children but what are the bare bones for learning to take root and flourish? How innate is it to childhood?

On January 29th 1999 Sugata Mitra, the science director of an Education Technology firm in India, carried out a fascinating experiment that seems to push out these boundaries of our expectations.

He installed a computer on an outside wall of a building located in one of the poorest slums in New Delhi. He turned on that computer and left it, telling the local gaggle of slum children, many of them illiterate and unschooled, that they could play with it.  He then recorded the results on camera.

The kids (aged approximately between 7-13), were naturally deeply intrigued by the t.v. looking bit of equipment and started to play with it and explore it.

They discovered pretty early on how to move the curser, how to click with the touch pad, and started to navigate the screen.  They eagerly told their friends, who told their friends, who also came to play, investigate and explore.

Within days, with no formal instruction from adults or previous schooling these kids were playing music, doing games and drawing with Microsoft Paint and navigating the computer like children do everywhere.

This experiment was conducted in other parts of India too, rural as well as urban. The same result was achieved; children learned to utilise the equipment through playful curiosity, naturally sharing and spreading the information.

In some instances, when basic literacy was present, the computers were used to explore and learn more complex ideas, for example in one remote Indian village where there was no prior knowledge of microorganisms, the children learnt about bacteria and viruses and used the information appropriately in conversations.

Mitra estimates that for every computer installed around India 300 children became computer literate within 3 months without any adult intervention. That is 30,000 computer literate children to 100 computers in 3 months!

Watch Sugata Mitra’s TED talk.

Thanks to Peter Gray’s blog, Freedom to Learn.

Ref: Mitra and Dangwal 2010; Mitra 2004; Mitra 2003, 2005; Mitra and Rana 2001.