Government with support from UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation has launched a national campaign entitled “I play, I learn, I thrive”.

The campaign is intended to spread awareness about the importance of play for young children, Ministry of Health of Health Spokesperson, Abel Kabalo has indicated.

In a statement made available to ZANIS in Lusaka today, Dr Kabalo, has stated that during the first few years of life, a child’s brain develops at a rate of more than one million new neural connections every second.

The Ministry of Health Spokesperson noted that the development is a once in a lifetime occurrence and children who receive nurturing care and the stimulation of play, including interactions with parents and caregivers, develop quicker and grow healthier, in addition to thriving better in school and later in life.

“For children to feel secure, they must be shown love and affection. Even babies that are too young to understand what adults say to them in words, can understand love and rejection, joy and sorrow in the parent or caregiver’s tone of voice, body language, actions and gestures.

“Parents and caregivers can express love and affection to the child in different ways such as hugging, cuddling, smiling and laughing together, tickling, massaging, gestures, and vocalisation,” Dr  Kabalo indicated.

Government will ensure the project is successfully carried out through its line ministries namely  the ministry of Health , h  Ministry of General Education and Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, respectively.

Meanwhile,  the Ministry of Health spokesperson indicated that the Playful Parenting campaign, launched today in Zambia, will highlight local proverbs that encourage nurturing care towards children.

“These Zambian proverbs including ‘Imiti ikula empanga’ (Bemba), Ng’ombe ni matole’ (Nyanja) and Mabiya afwida kumubumbi’ (Tonga) will be used on billboards across 20 cities and towns in Zambia, as well as on social media,” he said.

The campaign, which is supported by the LEGO Foundation as part of a wider partnership to boost Early Childhood Development and playful parenting in Zambia, has been developed with the Zambian Early Childhood Development Action Network (ZECDAN) which brings together government ministries, cooperating partners, UN agencies and NGOs working in the sector.

And Dr. Kabalo pointed out that the early years offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape a child’s ability to learn, grow and contribute meaningfully to society.

He said parents, including fathers, guardians and other caregivers are the main providers of the nutrition, stimulation, love and protection that every baby needs to build the brain’s architecture.

“Young children need acknowledgement and encouragement to develop confidence in themselves. Children should be encouraged when they achieve a new goal or are trying out something new.

“Praise motivates them to explore more and exploration is in turn good for brain development. Fathers and mothers need to be aware that they can negatively influence or lower children’s motivation to explore if the child’s efforts are not recognised,” Dr. Kabalo charged.

He noted that children perform significantly better when they are praised and given gentle feedback and explanations about what was good about their actions and why such a deed was commendable.

The Doctor added that praise that is specific and acknowledges the processes of completing an activity or solving a problem helps develop children’s learning and motivation.

Using a multi-disciplinary one government approach, the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ministry of General Education as well as the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, takes pleasure in collaborating with UNICEF, a global organisation dedicated to promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child across 190 countries and territories.

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