Why you should play, sing and learn with your children

By Elias Hakizimana.

Jean Marc Uwitonze is a father of three children from Kabaya Sector, Ngororero District in Western Province of Rwanda. His testimony proves how His five-year old child’s brain developed enough as he used to play, sing and learn with her.

Uwitonze said that he could before think that parental care is a women job and does not require men’s role.

Fortunately, he changed this kind of negative thinking and helped the child to juggle between her daily activities that include learning, playing and singing and now the five-year-old child’s brain can identify her as if she were ten years, thanks to parenting education training sessions by Save the Children Rwanda and Umuhuza organization that shaped his mindset.

“I and my colleague parents who acquired such trainings got knowledge that parental care like playing, singing and learning with children improves their brain development and empower them to be open-minded in the society. Our five-year-old daughter is now looking like the ten-year old because we use to play, sing and learn with her,” Uwitonze said.

Jean Marc Uwitonze giving testimony while her wife breastfeeds their little boy

Abdul Kalim Ndimurwango a father of three children is another parent who participated in parenting sessions.

“I didn’t know that a child needs parental care even when they are still in their mother womb. It is not only me, but so many other parents, especially husbands have this understanding.” In the trainings, we got to know that caring baby begins from when s/he is in the womb of their mother.”

He compares his third born and the first ones, saying that he is smarter than his elders because they did not get enough cares as their young brother since their parents were not yet trained through first steps initiative.

Abdul Kalim became trainer after observing that there are many families who do not know to care for their children.

“My last born Gisa is very bright. He is still very young but does things that I didn’t see his brothers doing when they were still his age. I think he will be very intelligent. We started caring for him when he was still in his mother’s womb. This came after attending first steps trainings which opened my mind,” Said Abdul Kalim. “Every day I have to find time for him. I read books for and with him, play with him. We became friends.” He added. 

Experts revealed that failure to support healthy brain development can result in life-long consequences; and that with training, parents can become more effective providers of the care and stimulation that babied and young children need to develop properly.

The new research by Save the Children and Umuhuza Organization conducted in Ngororero District in partnership with the Institute of Development Studies, showed the impact of parenting education programs in rural Rwanda. The research revealed that parents who received parenting trainings had positive and significant impact on time investment on increasing practices of engaging in ‘learning’ caregiver-child activities, such as singing, telling a story, playing with toys, reading and naming objects.

The study shows that compared to mothers from the same District who didn’t receive the interventions, mothers who received the basic package intervention invested 41% more time on learning activities. Mothers who received a more advanced package invested 52% more time than those who didn’t.

The research shows that men who received the basic package of the intervention increased over their investment in learning activities with children by 81% in the short-term and 32% in the medium-term.

The Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (RDHS) 2014-15 reported that 92% of children age 36-59 months are on track in physical domains of child development. However, only 7% of these children are developmentally on track in areas of literacy and numeracy; these figures are even lower for those in rural areas, poorer households and children of less educated parents.

 “The first 3 years of life are critical in shaping a child’s future; it’s in this time that children’s brains are growing the fastest and are most susceptible to change. Failure to support healthy brain development can result in life-long consequences.” Sofia Cozzolino, Program Development and Quality Director, Save the Children Rwanda said. 

Sofia Cozzolino, Program Development and Quality Director, Save the Children

Dr Anita Asiimwe, Director of National Early Childhood Development Program (NECDP) said that the government is encouraging parents’ partnership to improve early childhood development.

“We advise parents and whoever is ready to be a parent to know what early childhood development means, they have to fully invest in early ages of a human being as children must grow healthy, they need to invest time and all possible means,” she noted.

Dr Anita Asiimwe said that Early Child Development Centres (ECDs) count for 4,325 countrywide.

Dr Anita Asiimwe, Director of National Early Childhood Development Program (NECDP)


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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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