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Category: PLAY2LEARN


Chess: Of 64 squares and winning moves

Most of us would have tried our hand at a game of chess at some point, but many do not know that children as young as three to five years can benefit from playing the game. They learn to strategise, analyse, and decode while developing foresight and comprehension skills while playing this ancient board game. Created almost 1500 years ago in India, this popular game has shown an increase in concentration, memory, logical thinking, problem-solving skills and creativity. Chess has thrived for centuries and today we have international championships and acclaimed Grandmasters of the game, all under the watchful eyes of the International Chess Federation(FIDE), who have the final word on the rules and regulation of the game.

India Story
With Grandmasters like Vishwanathan Anand and Praggnanandha, Chess is played very widely across India and is especially loved by children. Currently, there are around 40 Grandmasters below the age of 15 years with Gukesh D who took the title of India’s youngest GM at 12 years, 7 months and 17 days, succeeding Praggnanandhaa who held the record at 12 years and 10 months since June of 2018.

Game Play
A game of chess can last from a few seconds, known as blitz or rapid, to hours or even days, when played in its long format. The game can be roughly divided into three stages: Opening, Middlegame and Endgame. While the Openings are more about learning different theories to position one’s chess pieces strategically on the board, the Endgame is mastering the winning moves after most pieces have been exchanged. The Middlegame is where the player can unleash his strategic thinking and creativity and play some signature moves.

Chess is a well-loved board game at Toybank’s Play2Learn centres with children from 10 years onwards getting introduced to the various nuances of this exciting mind game that requires patience as well as stamina. Even our volunteers are active proponents of this game and join our play sessions to teach our kids the ropes of winning.

Photo credit: Pixabay


A little drama on World Play Day

There is freedom in being playful and fun and not caring about what people think. This overall freedom adds to the positivity and fun and makes one feel light.

– Shaun Williams, Acting Coach and Toybank workshop curator

On the hot and humid day of 28th May, amidst the sweltering heat of Mumbai, a palpable sense of excitement filled the air as Team Toybank headed to celebrate World Play Day. The teachers from Toybank’s partner, SHARE, eagerly awaited the children at the community centre located inside the one of the serpentine bylanes of the Golibaar neighbourhood in Santacruz East, Mumbai. Soon, a teeming crowd of children surrounded Shaun Williams, the actor and drama coach, who was leading our curated World Play Day drama workshop.

After brief introductions, Shaun engaged them with questions ranging from pop culture to their favourite songs and games. And so began a round of fun vocal exercises through imitation of animal sounds and enactments of everyday activities like eating a sandwich or an ice cream. The short ice-breaker helped the children overcome their initial hesitation and dive into the ongoing playful engagements. As minutes passed, they could not wait to show their best ghost or lion impressions to Shaun.

The children made a circle as they sat on the floor. They intently focussed their attention as Shaun challenged them to get agile with a quick standing up and sitting down game. He first made a mixed group of all the children and divided the kids into two groups. Each group took turns and walked around the room as Shaun instructed them to double up their pace or lessen it by half the speed. While walking, they enacted eating a chocolate or a sandwich through their gestures. Sometimes they imagined that the floor was flowing with lava. Children were seen jumping around in glee and spontaneously acting out scenarios that evoked a range of emotions, like admiring a flower or reacting to a cockroach near their feet.

They were further divided into smaller groups of six and asked to use their bodies to showcase a flower, a car, a plane, or spell three letter words together. The kids surprised us all with their imaginative depictions. They worked as a team, strategically placing themselves, some pretending as if they were driving cars and bikes.

Even with the sun blazing, the children enthusiastically played in a large, open quadrangle. Shaun taught them many versions of Lock and Key, one remarkably had the catcher tap and ‘lock’’ as many players as they could, while the untapped ‘free’ players would try to ‘unlock’ their fellow mates by crawling through their feet. Another version had kids acting out a zombie apocalypse, where if touched, they would turn into zombies and start turning others one too. The kids loved enacting the dramatic metamorphosis into zombies.

These games invigorated the children, the sweltering heat did not matter, nor did the hot ground – there were only giggles, laughter and some zombie squeals that echoed. After this exhausting exercise, the children went back into the room, still laughing, and were instructed to hydrate and rest for five minutes. But even within those five minutes, they began playing games amongst themselves and the Toybank Team. Shaun then instructed them to lie down and guided them through calming exercises and meditation to soothe them while engaging their imagination.

After the kids seemed rested, they were again asked to sit in a circle and use a dupatta as anything but the dupatta. As an example, Shaun folded the dupatta and used it as a phone. Almost immediately the kids came up with ideas, using the piece of cloth as a steering wheel, a bike handle, headgear, as a skipping rope. Even more fascinatingly, they used it to make jackets which the children laughingly said that they learnt from ‘Five Minutes Craft’ on YouTube. Post this, a group of boys decided to present a play where they showed interactions with the police and a young boy caught speeding.

At the end of the session, this is what our workshop curator Shaun had to say: “I had a good time with the kids because I get to be a kid and be silly with them. There is freedom in being playful and fun and not caring (about what people think). This overall freedom adds to the positivity and the fun and makes one feel light. Play makes life a little more bearable and you become happy. You can be nice to other people that would make them happy and this chain reaction would cause everyone in the world, in theory, to be happy.”

It was great to see how the kids enjoyed the session and promised to not only come for more sessions but also get all their friends to join in too. This session highlighted the importance of physical play sessions. During this workshop, there were no electronics used showing the children that they can have fun and creatively express themselves through physical play sessions. The workshop made them think out of the box. In fact, the kids were sad as the session came to an end.

In today’s time when children’s favourite games are played mostly on phones, it is important to show how playing with each other without glaring at screens can be even more fun. This drama workshop helped them to develop their social and creative skills through play.

By Shanaya Dastoor


Manipulating games into teachings: Workshop by Anu Advani

We are limited only by our own imagination. Who would have thought a game like Snakes & Ladders could be used to teach various other things to children?

Make way for Manipulative Training! Anu Advani — a teacher from Brooklyn, US — introduced Toybank’s Program Officers(POs) to unique ways of playing. During this cross-learning session, she shared ‘manipulative’ techniques she applied in her teaching and how she uses Play as a pedagogy. Alongside, the POs shared how Play is used in their profession as a Program Officer which reinforced the Power of Play for Anu.

Manipulation of Games
During the session, Anu asked the POs about how they would use Snakes & Ladders (a game ideally designed for age 8 and above) with all age groups pre-primary, primary and secondary. She encouraged them to think inventively and give their different inputs. Through this, the idea of manipulating an existing game to cater to the children being engaged was established.

Snakes & Ladder for the pre-primary section could be used to teach them two prime elements — numbers up to 20 and colors. For the primary section, Anu recommended using two dices instead of one and ask the children to add and subtract the two numbers to move ahead on the board. Similarly, for the secondary section, multiply or divide the numbers.

In the above example, the extra die added to the game was the manipulative part to make the game more interesting. In the same manner, discarded game coins, dice with colors, Tangram pieces and so on can be used to make any game interesting, engaging and curated to children of various developmental and learning levels.

Team Building Activity
Anu also conducted a Team Building activity where she provided straws, index cards, hand cream, tape and a pair of scissors to the teams and asked them to make the tallest structure that can stand without any support. Two minutes were given for the team to discuss strategies and approaches of constructing the tallest structure. Post which, 10 minutes were allocated to make it.

Each team had a unique solution, no two groups made the same thing. There was a clear team effort.

What next?
After a fun learning session, Anu promised to come back to India for another workshop, with games relevant to the children in India through which she will demonstrate the magic of manipulation. She also suggested that each PO identifies two games and figures ways to use it for all sections of children and try to find manipulatives to enhance them. We can’t wait for the session, which will be a powerhouse of learning!


Play away. No preparations, no supplies needed

On the off chance that you have neither the board games nor playing cards at home, here are some indoor games you can play that need no prep, no supplies and little to no materials. These simple yet fun games can be played with things lying around at home.

This is an oldie but a goodie! It never gets boring. We’re sure you know the drill. In case you don’t, form teams. Whisper a movie or series name to a player from the opposite team. As they enact it out, their team guesses the film. With the influx of series on OTT platforms, you won’t be struggling for names.

Dancing Chain
Bust a move and become a choreographer. Stand in a circle and play music. Choose one person to start the game and ask them to make a dance move. A simple action like throwing your hands in the hair, bobbing your head, etc. Everyone imitates the move. The next person then imitates this move and adds their own. Keep at it till the song plays.

Guess the Sound
If you have little kids, this would be easy enough for them to play. Gather things lying around. Blindfold the player, make a sound with the object(s) and ask the child to guess what the object is. Spoon or/and pot (bang them together), stapler (staple a paper), wooden blocks and so on.

Another game that children, especially young kids, enjoy but can be played by anyone. The only thing you need for this is music. Play your child’s favorite song and ask them to dance. Stop the song and ask them to freeze in whatever position they are — with a leg up in the air, hands up, etc. Add another element and ask them to freeze in a specific position, like an animal or a shape.

Drama Queen
This is like Charades. Only more fun. You need to enact an entire scenario as the other player guesses what’s happening. Divide yourselves into teams and write down scenarios on pieces of papers — shopping at a supermarket but forgetting the wallet at home, your car was stolen, waking up in the morning and finding out you’re a dog… as crazy as you can get. Exchange the chits with the opponents and pick out a paper to enact.


Joining the dots of Play at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2020

Toybank’s workshop was dotted with fun activities and games at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2020. As we promoted the importance of play, sticking to this year’s theme of ‘Dots’, children indulged in ‘Join the Dots’, card making and ‘Dots and Boxes’. Preparations for the event jump back a few weeks, as team Toybank created activities that would be enjoyable, give the kids something to take back home and lead to learning something new.

Our first activity was Joining the Dots to complete a picture and filling it in with crepe paper pellets for color. Each child spent time selecting shades to use and patterns to design. The arena was filled with laughter and squeals. Little Vanshika pointed to her design and exclaimed, “Me and my friend that I play with!”

One of the upshots of play is self-expression and confidence to share your feelings. The second part of this activity was making a card and writing a letter to the person we enjoy playing with. While most tots wrote to their friends from school or parents, a girl wrote a letter to her pets for playing with her and another to herself because she likes to play alone. Turns out, this activity served a deeper purpose when one of the kids wrote a letter to say sorry to her ‘bestest’ friend — and favorite person to play hide-and-seek with — as they had fought. This proves that play evokes accepting one’s mistake. We do hope they’ve made up and start playing together again.

Here’s also a shout-out to the kiddo who chose all shades of pink to color his drawing! We love gender stereotypes being shattered and play being the medium. But we were thrilled to learn that the colour was an unusual choice only for us and not him, as his favourite hues are red and pink.

The children also played ‘Dots and Boxes’, with 4 children in each group. Interestingly, kids reacted differently to the same game. Play invoked a sense of healthy competition as well as fostering a bond where you allow a complete stranger to win so that you are better friends at the end of the experience.

Not just the children but we also made merry. The little ones kept us pumped up with their mad energies. So much so that one kid didn’t want to leave because he was having so much fun!


Toybank Fiesta 2019 – A mosaic of changemakers

As a new volunteer at Toybank, I didn’t know what to expect as I had never volunteered at an NGO before, not to mention that at the Volunteer Induction I walked into a gathering of people much older than me. However, when Shweta Chari – the founder of Toybank – very passionately explained the message of Development Through Play, I grew to understand that this was not a group of intimidating professionals but excited, fun-loving people who wanted to make a difference.

The Fiesta’s theme exemplified this – a mosaic representing diverse people from different backgrounds and identities coming together to be a part of a bigger cause.

This was an impression that remained constant throughout my volunteering journey. The organization works towards achieving early childhood mental well-being through Play. Their reach is truly inspiring: over 56,000* children from vulnerable communities across 12 districts of Maharashtra have the opportunity to experience a normal childhood because of this organization. This in turn influences a change in their personality and thinking as they grow older. Step by step, they are working towards building a better India, following their ethos, “It is easier to build strong children that fix broken men”, and I feel privileged to be part of the process.

Toybank’s Fiesta 2019 was a whirlwind of excitement and activity. Despite not having met any of the volunteers before, we transformed into a beautifully coordinated machine and it was a phenomenon to watch. Each member of the team became family – we were one unit ready to support each other, all with the ultimate goal of pulling off the event seamlessly.

The Fiesta’s theme exemplified this – a mosaic representing diverse people from different backgrounds and identities coming together to be a part of a bigger cause. Not only did this refer to the volunteers but also to the various performers and audiences who came to bring the Fiesta to life.

For those two days, the walls of the breathtaking ABACA furniture store enclosed a group of people enjoying music, food, and each other’s company, all the while spreading awareness about the importance of Conscious Play for mental well-being. Students from international schools across Mumbai showcased their talents to propagate this message as well. Ranging from 10 to 16 years old, these talented children put on an impressive performance – one that was unprecedented for their age and enjoyed by every individual present there.

At the Fiesta, we volunteers felt valued and part of a movement for change, no matter how small or significant our responsibilities were.

By Sunday evening as the last performers walked off the stage, we all gathered to take a group picture. Despite having known them for a mere two days I knew I would miss every individual who had been a part of this process. The Fiesta was one of my most memorable experiences and the manner in which I was welcomed into the Toybank team is something I will always value greatly. All in all, it was a wonderful experience and I look forward to doing my part towards building stronger children so that we may have a future where there are no broken men and women.

*Data collected as of November 30, 2019

(Written by Keya Kilachanda, Grade 11 student from Cathedral and John Connon School, who has been volunteering with Toybank since a year)


The fun-tastic fiesta

It was a novel experience, filled with light, laughter and learning.

– A Toybank volunteer

All of us, working professionals would perhaps admit to missing our childhood, school and college days. There are multiple reasons for this – but I’m sure it all boils down to the ‘FUN’ element that was predominant in almost every aspect, every activity of those formative years.

I am grateful to Toybank, for taking me back in time and experience the fun and excitement on 24th and 25th of November at their power-packed Fiesta. The venue was lovely, the arrangements – exquisite and the event- let’s just say it was the most fun I’d had in a long, long time.

Day 1 was a charmer. Luke Kenny, the kind and funny human that he is, welcomed the guests and kick-started the event. I was surprised to see young school bands, Amplitude and Poptastic Rockers, singing rock, indie and pop songs for the opening act. They truly rocked the arena with their music and energy. It was a delight to see the kids grooving to music from the 90’s; I stood there, swaying, reliving my childhood through their performance.

The electrifying music performances were followed by a thought provoking conversation between actor Parvin Dabas and filmmaker/activist Nandita Das. They spoke about the role of play in a child’s life, and Das being a mother herself, had some really insightful thoughts to share.

The closing act for the evening was none other than Elvis Presley himself! Siddharth Meghani, India’s only
Elvis Presley impersonator got us all foot-tapping and rock n’ rolling with his melodious Elvis-y voice.

The next day was a spectacle! It began with 2 high school bands, No Feedback and The Sunday Evening Collective playing the blues and some other 90’s hits, and moved on to the long awaited conversation about childhood resilience that was moderated by award-winning author Meghna Pant, with NBA India’s Director Scott Fleming and actor/activist Rahul Bose. Their discussion on the impact of play led to a good understanding of the roles of gender that children are exposed to at an early age. The speakers spoke of equal opportunity, the importance of games and, the seriousness of living a fun childhood.

There was also a Toybank pop – up bazaar on both the days which displayed an array of products one could purchase to support the organisation. These products ranging from mugs, bags, notepads, postcards, accessories, diaries, etc. were creative, spunky and the audience could not get enough of it.

Founder and CEO Shweta Chari, giggled on stage as she expressed her gratitude as well as invited the guests
to join in on Toybank’s mission- to create a safe, playful childhood for all kids, and help them grow and learn
through the medium of fun and play. Toybank’s work is truly inspiring and impactful.

The final act, by Luke Kenny and Band got all of ABACA and its guests onto their feet, singing, sweating and
shouting, “Rock On!”

The event was definitely the best way for me to spend my weekend (Special shout-out to the hospitality and
food partners for their mouth watering food). It was a novel experience, filled with light, laughter and learning.

I look forward to volunteering with Toybank and lending my help to Toybank’s cause in whatever way I can.