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Clear blue skies greeted us as we packed the car this week, even if it was a little chilly. In addition to our usual equipment there was some more stock for the shop.

With the weather better the expectation was that everyone would turn up on time this week.

Although a little late one by one the mothers of both groups arrived and the theme for this week was again connect with your baby. After the 5 minute relax in silence Monja then talked about other ways of connecting.

Recapping from last week she asked all the ladies if they had practiced what they had learned. Those who had, noticed a difference in their baby. Both groups were then asked to look at their children and notice three things about them, “this is another good way of connecting” pointed out Monja.

“she is looking at me as though she knows me”

“she is talking”

“Austin rolls from the back to the tummy” which he did as his mother mentioned this, a huge milestone for his age.

Both groups then practiced the tapping and squeezing on their children. Taking “Princess” on her back from the 1st group she started to rub her chest then taking her legs she started to bend them and the ankles, taking the knees to the chest, then planting each foot one at a time into the ground whilst talking all the time, telling the baby what she was doing. “your children are interested and aware of what you are doing” comments Monja.

Next the mothers from both groups started tapping and squeezing each other’s arms. All noticed various sensations in their bodies where they had been touched “now you can understand what your children are experiencing when you are touching and squeezing them” remarked Monja “I encourage you to do this every day, it is an important part of early childhood development”

The 1st group now laid their babies on the floor in front of them and used rattles again to attract attention, therefore stimulate.

Some now began to get a little restless and cried. Monja now asked the mothers to stand, cradle the babies with arms outstretched in an inverted V shape, clasping their hands together with the infants sitting with backs against the mother’s chest. Now all were encouraged to start stomping their feet rhythmically. In a circle they then stomped towards each other “so the babies can see each other” then the baby’s feet touched “now they can feel each other” points out Monja. “the vibrations they feeling from the stomping calms them down” concludes Monja. This most certainly had the desired effect and some normality returned to the room “see, you do not have to breast feed just to keep the babies quiet” exclaimed Monja.

Using a doll, Monja started showing how to map the face. Touching the doll then the children’s face she showed where the nose, mouth, lips, tongue and cheeks were, mentioning each part as it was touched. “this is so important to stimulate the mouth” mentions Monja “it is important for speaking and eating”

Monja now noticed one of the mothers roughly picking up her child and plonking it on their feet. “all children need to be treated as human beings, not like a doll” explains Monja, “at this age they are only ready to stand once they can sit properly”, one of the mothers then said “but he wants to stand”, “no you want him to stand, you make him” replies Monja.

In the crossed leg position she takes the doll and horizontally places the head on the inside of her thigh, with the legs overlapping the other thigh, cradling the doll in her lap “this position with give the spine a curve therefore flexibility, to strengthen the spine more the baby needs plenty of tummy time, otherwise they will become stiff before they can sit, then only stand”

To conclude, the 1st group played with tennis balls and building blocks until it was time for the 3 minutes of silence.

“paying attention to how you hold your baby and transition your baby is an important for a healthy development” concludes Monja.

As the blocks and balls were already out the 2nd group started playing with them. “games develop learning” points out Monja “they also learn through curiosity, give them plenty of things to do”. After a while the children were playing games amongst themselves, taking a cup and placing a ball or block inside, turning it upside down or making a throwing action to remove it. Next the mothers and children were making towers out of the blocks, there seemed to be a competition to see who could make the tallest. Monja asked each mother to think of a game that could be played in the session next week.

After a while again the children became restless so some singing ensued, bringing the familiar calm after.

As the session was coming to a conclusion Monja asked the mothers what they noticed different in their babies from the beginning “the children have become calmer and more present” was the general consensus of opinion “that is because you are more active and are interacting with your babies” pointed out Monja “you are engaging and they are reacting to your stimulus”

As a prelude to the 3 minutes relax in silence the children played one final game, packing away the toys that had been played with during the morning.

free playing is an essential part of a child’s development it allows for creativity to develop” concludes Monja.

Rain had been forecast on the day but up until we started packing the car it was clear. Just as we started loading the heavens opened with lightening, we had quite a bit to fit in.

Trying to keep dry the car was filled to the brim with a cot, clothing patterns and pictures for the school, toys & food for the mothers, more cloths for the shop and the camera we set in the middle of the storm.

A sense of achievement was in the air...the project was finally starting, we were ready, were the mothers?

Half way into the journey we received notification that as it is raining the mothers may be reluctant to go out with their babies, something that was understandable.

Just as we approached the outskirts of Kliptown we could see it was clearing up which is when we received word they would come, albeit a bit late.

The Pilot, like the Introduction had been split into two groups, the 1st being the baby was under a year old, the 2nd twelve months and older. The sessions are now to be 1½ hours long to maximise the learning ability.

When the mothers started arriving for both groups, it was noted that there were some new additions so at which point Monja explained to them what the Pilot Project was going to entail.

She also mentioned that

· HBF is seeking accreditation from SETA for the course that they are now attending

· Attendance to all the classes is necessary for them to be able to complete the course, a register is taken each week

· As caregivers/mothers they should practice the techniques they learn on a Saturday during the week on their babies

All seemed to buy in.

The theme for this week was connect with your baby.

It may have been because of the weather but the 1st group babies seemed to be tired when they arrived, many were sleeping.

Monja had both the groups mothers relax for 5 minutes in silence at the beginning, either laying on the floor or resting against a wall, laying their children on the floor so the sessions could start in calm state and they could be present with themselves, this was a good way to start.

From the 1st group taking baby “Jayden” so she could demonstrate, especially to the new mothers Monja started tapping the chest and talking to her, introducing herself as a way of connecting. “if “Jayden” is not looking at me see if you can try and find her, attracting her attention” noted Monja. She reiterated this is so that the baby start to map out its own body, whilst doing so she says “shaya, shaya, shaya” which means “tap, tap, tap” in Zulu. “Jayden” then started to interact with Monja so she moved to squeeze her saying “bamba, yeka” which translates to “squeeze and release”. Monja then started to press down on her chest “she can now start to feel her back”, “now she is totally engaged as she feels what is happening to her”

So the mothers could understand what the sensation feel like, Monja had them tapping and squeezing their own bodies repeating the relevant saying.

Next each mother laid out their own child and Monja demonstrated how to turn the infant onto their sides tapping the back, next she squeezed the front and back together, still part of the mapping process. In this position Monja then showed if the free leg was rolled over grounded one, rubbing the foot on the floor this would “stimulate and strengthen the pelvis” which will make them be able to sit properly quicker, something that would become relevant later.

The transition from this position to stomach was next shown with “Jayden”, encouraging the babies to move their own arms out of the way so they could be flat, noting if they were lifting their heads. With the infants like this Monja could then bend, push and stimulate her legs, bringing attention to the pelvis.

Demonstrating how to return the babies to their backs, Monja and the mothers then started to shake rattles in front of them, again to encourage the connection. Some took a bit of time but eventually they all started to notice and grab at the rattles for themselves.

By now most of the children had become restless so songs were sung to calm them down.

With the mothers and babies a little more relaxed a conversation ensued regarding baby “milestones”, in particular sitting. It was noted that two babies of the same age, one was starting to sit and appeared to be stable, where as the others were sitting but was unstable. Monja then demonstrated by making a V with her straightened legs the child could be cradled in her lap sitting but still supported. Next she showed by taking a rattle and shaking it away from her straightened leg the baby would want to move and grab it, pushing with its legs to reach. This again brings attention to the pelvis. “If an infant starts to sit too early it will become stiff” points out Monja.

“it is important for parents to understand that they should support their baby where they are at and not make them do things they are not ready to do” concludes Monja.

The 2nd group now started arriving, a little late with some new arrivals who were keen to find out what the project was all about, Monja repeated her earlier speech.

After the 5 minutes relax the group, for the benefit of the newcomers tapping and squeezing ensued, Monja demonstrated on one of the new babies the technique.

As the babies became restless the group now started singing songs, this had the desired effect and some normality returned.

As the children are a little older they are able to play games as part of the learning process. Monja paired the mothers up in 2’s/3’s with straight legs in a V with their feet touching. With a tennis ball in hand they launched it to each other on the ground. After a while the babies became interested and joined in.

They also sat with their legs straight and started to roll the balls “children like to mimic and learn from their parents, this is a great source for their development” Monja explains.

‘Clinton” one of the older boys now started to throw the ball with force at one of the other children, his guardian “Anna” explained he doesn’t seem to know the difference between soft and hard. Monja asked “Anna” to shout at her, which she did. Monja then asked her to shout louder, then louder, then even louder, then even louder. Now Monja asked “Anna” to keep shouting but gradually decrease the volume. Monja now threw a ball harder and harder in the direction of “Clinton” hitting the wall returning to her, he was mimicking. Then as with the shouting she started to decrease the speed of the ball at which point he started to throw with less pace.

“if your baby starts crying/screaming then cry/scream louder back at them and continue reducing the volume, they will follow suit and have understanding of the difference between soft and loud” explains Monja “this can also be communicated when you tap & squeeze...tap & squeeze harder, then reduce the force” Monja concludes.

Both groups as a close, Monja had again the mothers relaxing either on the floor or against a wall for 3 minutes so all were calm when they left.

“it is important for parents to find time during the day to pause and check in with themselves. If the parent can find peace and calm within themselves they will transfer this to their baby” Monja concludes.

All seemed to enjoy the refreshment that was provided after both sessions.

We headeding off to Kliptown to interview everyone as a starting point for the Pilot Project. Anticipation was back in the air, would all the ladies arrive and could we capture quality footage on a borrowed camera?. The 21 interviewee Caregivers had been given time slots to arrive so they could complete indemnity form and talk to Monja about themselves and their baby so she could get to know them better on a personal basis. Questions were asked such as ·how was the pregnancy/birth of the child? ·what is life like at home? ·is your child experiencing any health problems? ·interests when not being a mother? ·why do you want to complete the program? ·is the father present/involved? ·what are your dreams/ambition in life? ·their educational background? ·as a mother, how is your health? ·how old is your child ·what Early Child Development milestones has their baby achieved for their age? "the interviews were recorded as a starting point reference for the Project to see how they progress as time move on." comments Monja