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Promoting child development in Senegal through play group

Plan International Senegal has established the Play Group Initiative in more than 220 villages across 15 local communities to support the physical and cognitive development of children.

Children playing with toys which they received through their play group in Kelle Gueye

Ensure the nutritional, social, and emotional needs of children

The Play Group Initiative, part of Plan International Senegal’s healthier and safer environment for children and women program, contributes to the reduction of maternal, neonatal, infant, and juvenile mortality through the promotion of beneficial practices such as growth monitoring and the provision of supplemental semi-solid food for babies after six months of age as well as integral services such as immunizations for babies under one year of age, antenatal and postnatal consultations for women.

Such services have benefited around 45,000 children who regularly attended the play groups. However, the Initiative focuses on more than just health and physical development, and includes cognitive stimulation as well.  With access to a library of toys, volunteers can be found inspiring and challenging the children through various activities such as singing, dancing, nursery rhymes, and puzzles. 

 Communities fully engage and responsible for the project

In each village, the Play Groups open for two hours three days a week, and are locally managed and financed.  For children’s nutrition, community committees collect food from households along with financial contributions to support the upkeep of the services.  Their efforts are supplemented by volunteers from the community who ensure that the meals are enriched with local cereals. 

I was surprised that my girl who attends play group now manages to communicate clearly

Ndiaye, a village-based farmer in the Kelle Gueye rural community of Louga, is one of the many parents whose children are participating in the Play Group Initiative and appreciates the new stimulation his child is now receiving. 

“I was surprised that my little four-year-old girl who attends the play group now manages to communicate clearly with me and her siblings.  I couldn’t imagine that a young child of her age could properly deal with adults,” says Ndiaye.

Lasting benefits and impact within the communities

Such benefits of the play groups appear to be moving beyond the children to the wider communities in which they live.  “Within families, children are becoming more compliant with the sanitation rules they are taught by the volunteers and now want to wash their hands with soap, have daily baths, and wear clean clothes. Parents appreciate their children’s new behavior and, in turn, they are adopting the same behaviors,” attests Abibatou, one of the volunteers. 

 Plan International further formally engages the wider communities in the program by promoting the protection of children’s rights through advocacy sessions using cinema buses.