Two and a half years ago a little pink bundle arrived screaming into my world – and for the first few hours of her life my husband, Rob just kept saying, “Can you believe we made something so perfect?” And it’s so true, we did not have to decide where Charlie’s eyebrows should go, what colour her hair should be, whether she gets his legs or mine (his, thank goodness! No girl likes a cankle!). But now she has arrived, without much input from us, what do we do with her? Yes, of course we fed her, cleaned her, dressed her, and put her to sleep (we’re not completely useless) but what about all the hours she is awake?!?!
Even as an Occupational Therapist the idea of engaging my child in play was terrifying: how much stimulation, how often, what kinds of things should I be doing do, what about overstimulation, what are the long term consequences etc. etc. etc.!!!! All logic and reason disappeared when Charlie arrived.
I found the greatest comfort to my ‘engagement and stimulation’ concerns in my old textbooks and varsity buddies. No sooner had I opened the pages than it all came flooding back: how to ensure optimal learning, when she should lift her head, how to engage her, when she should sit, when should she walk etc. and I realised that my years of experience as an OT would help me facilitate Charlie’s development. I slowly became more and more confident and was soon able to educate Charlie’s nanny, Faith (and my right arm) on how to engage and stimulate her by explaining fun games that appeared to just be fun but had so many other benefits to her development. And this became vitally important when I returned to work.
In addition to being a mom, I am also a business owner… two businesses in fact. So knowing I had provided Faith with the tools she needed to play with Charlie meant I was ensured she was getting all the right input while I was not there. Faith was also learning and growing and told me how much more she was enjoying her job. And just like that, the guilt lifted and my load felt lighter realising it does take a village to raise a child.
Slowly, it then dawned on me that there must be other moms out there, especially in our South African context, who are at a loss of what to do with their smalls during the waking hours and feeling guilty as sin when returning to work, leaving their most precious bundle in the care of someone else. It is hugely daunting to think that we as parents need to care for this tiny love but it’s even more scary when we have to hand them over, hoping that their caregiver knows enough to not only care and comfort her but to also stimulate her and engage in her in play. This is how Play Matters, my third baby, was born.
The team behind Play Matters consists of teachers, Occupational Therapists and most importantly working moms. And as such we do not claim to offer a magic potion or miracle proposal, we have simply created a programme we hope parents and caregivers might find beneficial, enjoyable and educational.
The Play Matters programme has been designed to educate your child’s caregiver, assist your child to reach their full developmental potential and allow you, the parent, to rest assured that your baby is getting everything that they need each day.
The underlying philosophy of Play Matters is engagement. Without it, a child is simply at a disadvantage. We believe passionately in the importance of engaging a child in play and that the relationship fostered between the caregiver and the child through play is vital to their well-being and development at present and in future.
I hope that my third baby will bring you the same peace of mind that it brought me and my family.