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Week 8 : Hamba Bamba Funda's Early Childhood Development Pilot Project

There was a sense wonder in the car as we drove to Kliptown this week...we were changing classrooms as renovations were being done to the baby room. We were shown to our new venue and settled in.

This week’s theme was the emotional regulation of your baby and when the mothers both groups arrived they were invited to lie down on the floor and Monja went through a Breathing Awareness exercise. “focus on whether you are breathing through your nose or mouth, can you notice the cold air as you inhale and the warmer air as you exhale, can you notice your chest expand and sink and does your belly move” she inquires “now unconsciously tense your belly, does your chest move more” she asks.

With the mothers moving now to sit Monja asks “does it bring anything up lying down bringing attention to your breath and yourself”

“good to relax”

“I found myself yawning”

were typical responses

“it is good to yawn” points out Monja, “it realises the diaphragm” she concludes.

“how do you express or not express your stress” Monja asks next

“by screaming and shouting”

“become frustrated”

“shutting down”

“shout at the children”

were typical responses

“living in an informal settlement and dealing with stress is difficult as so many of us live under one roof” points out one of the mothers “as we can’t just talk to anyone, especially family as they just tell us we have our own problems to deal with and sometimes even talking to a friend is not good as they just tell everyone” she concludes.

All agreed this was a cultural way and Monja asked “is it therefore unusual for you to share like you are now in a group situation” both groups agreed.

“we can teach a baby to express its emotion through a toys” points out Monja “by allowing them to throw a ball and making it a game, they are venting their frustration”

Later in the 2nd session one of the babies threw a tantrum, laying on the ground and cried. Monja asked the mothers to join in and they all mimicked the child and he soon stopped. The same outcome happened when a different baby knocked a chair over in the 1st group, Monja knocked another chair to the ground, this was turned again into a game “they must be able to act out and express their emotion and learn to express in a healthy, not to block, suppress or shutdown” says Monja “the older babies will start speaking and express themselves as more temperament comes out, tapping and squeezing is another good way of calming a child” she concludes.

Both groups then started a session of tapping, squeezing and transitioning.

As some of the babies in the 1st group are crawling, nearly walking Monja wanted to demonstrate a transition to stand using a chair, eventually climbing onto it.

Monja tapped a seat to encourage interest and one of the babies pulled herself up to stand next to the chair. As she wanted to climb up she was helped to do so by bending a leg and moving it upwards and onto the seat. Grasping the back she was able pull herself up to her knees, eventually to stand and then sit back to squat and back to standing “squatting is an important transition to standing” points out Monja. Moving off the chair was not so easy but again with encouragement she was able to do so. “self image is so important for a child, when they can do something by themselves they will do it over again, it is great for their self-esteem”

Monja then demonstrated on a mother, using a larger chair the process of transitioning onto a chair, through squatting and climbing off the seat to stand.

Turning to mothers of the younger babies in the group Monja reiterated not to sitting their infants “doing so will put them in a position where they can’t move and this creates dependency on their parents” she warns.

Some of the babies started to become restless so Monja suggested some singing. She had been practising some afrikaans nursery rhymes and was keen to teach to both groups.

As the 2nd group came to a conclusion one of the mothers mentioned “I feel as though I am starting again, my baby has seemed to have forgotten the tapping, squeezing & transitioning”, Monja’s response was “being in hospital was traumatic for him, he was separated from you and probably started to shut down and freeze” continuing she says “the separation would give him a sense of rejection but continue when you can with the tapping and squeezing it will make him feel secure”

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