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Week 3 : Hamba Bamba Funda's Early Childhood Development Pilot Project

Another crisp Johannesburg morning greeted us as we waited for our special guest to arrive who was following us to Kliptown.

Judith, one of HBF’s directors had been wanting to see “what happens on the ground” for some time. Monja joined her and we drove in convoy, the two of them catching up on news along the way.

Traffic was heavier than usual and we arrived dead on 10 o’clock with some of the ladies already waiting for us, we hurriedly set up for the morning ahead.

Judith introduced herself and spoke to the 1st group explaining her involvement in HBF. “this work is important to the community and that is why I came on board as a director” explained Judith, “I also have children and as a young mother you tend to concentrate on feeding, bathing, dressing and changing your baby and therefore seldom do you think of this kind of teaching...but I wish I had” she concludes, pointing out that the NPO will be two years old in September.

The mothers then in turn introduced themselves, commenting on what they have learnt so far during the project.

Judith happily joined in with all of the activities of the 1st group which continued with the theme of connect with your baby. Laying the babies again on their backs the mothers rubbed the bellies, tapped & squeezed bent & extended legs, stomped feet whilst talking & telling their children what they were doing.

Monja then asked the group “who has been practising what you have been learning”. “Angela” said she had been transitioning “Princess” which she demonstrated correctly, from back to belly and then returning to her back.

The whole group now positioned themselves in a circle and Monja demonstrated again how to transition. When the babies where on the stomachs they could all see each other and responded with excitement with their heads lifted.

“being on their bellies strengthens the back which helps with developing lifting of the head and later creeping and crawling” noted Monja. “when should my baby be ready to crawl” asks a mother, “after 7 or 8 months” replied Monja.

Monja now demonstrated how to pick up a baby “make sure that they are always rounded, if you then place them over your shoulder bend their knees, this keeps flexibility in the spine otherwise it becomes stiff, tapping and squeezing also elevates the stiffness”

About this time again the babies seemed to get restless so they were picked up correctly and a circle of mothers stomping their feet whilst singing ensued to calm them down.

As always this had the desired effect, the mothers then could be paired up and tap & squeeze each other’s legs one at a time, the arms had been attended too the previous week.

This was the first time Judith had experienced this “the other leg feels cold and stiff, where as the leg that was worked on feels warm, relaxed, supple and I am more aware of it”

To end the session both groups observed the 3 minutes relax in silence.

“practicing tapping and squeezing whilst transitioning your baby is an important part of the practice and has to be incorporated as part of a daily routine” concludes Monja.

Unfortunately Judith could not stay to meet the 2nd group but after the 5 minutes relax in silence (observed by both groups) a recap of tapping and squeezing started, with the older children joining in, in their own way. Special attention this week was given to the toes, counting each one when squeezed.

Last week’s homework for the mothers was to think up games to play during the session. The next portion of the morning was full of fun and laughter by all as they played “horsey horsey”, “where is the baby” and sang & acted out “ring a ring of roses” plus danced to music from a cell phone.

Monja brought some donated rubber balls with her so next they played “pass the parcel” with one, the children wanting to mimic soon joined in. When the mothers started throwing balls at each other again the kids started doing the same. Next a clean medium sized bin was found and the balls were placed/thrown/rolled into it, then emptied.

Monja had also brought balls that had rubber spikes, giving some texture. The children were encouraged to rub their feet and hands over them, much to their amazement. A game of tidying up the balls ended that part.

Wooden blocks were now produced. “when learning how to stack the blocks show your children how to stack softly as well as slowly” Monja demonstrates which the kids seemed to grasp. The mums then embarked on a competition between them as to who could build the biggest building with their child, with more laughter.

To encourage exploration Monja placed blocks on the seat of a chair, the children were very curious.

The final game of the day was to pack the blocks away.

When asked by Monja how today’s session was, a typical reply was “fun, like being in a gym” was a typical reply.

“stacking games enhances fine motor skills which is important in early development” concludes Monja

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