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Spirit of volunteering: Toybankers talk about Play, why volunteering is essential

Our volunteers help us spread the message of Power of Play, while having a playful time themselves. They support us in play sessions and help us make them accessible to more children. Through the years, this support has helped us take play to more children.

On World Volunteering Day, we asked a few of them about their experience so far and how being part of the cause has changed their perception of Play. Here’s what they had to say: 

Play must not be a reward after studies, but part of daily education
Volunteering with Toybank has helped me reconnect with my childhood. It has inculcated in me qualities of patience, resilience and empathy and also helped me understand the importance of play. I now realise that play should not always be a reward after studies, but should be inculcated throughout the school day, as it is extremely educational. Volunteering can help us make a difference and put a smile on childrens’ faces, while playing with them and helping them learn simultaneously. 

Play is a crucial tool for fostering creativity
Through Toybank’s play sessions, I have realised the power of play in the lives of children, especially those from marginalised communities. I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact it has on their development and well-being. I always thought play was a simple, recreational activity, but I now understand that it is a crucial tool for fostering creativity, social skills and emotional growth in children. By volunteering with Toybank, we can all be part of children’s development.   

Every play session teaches you something new
Toybank’s Conscious Playapproach is what drew me to the organisation. Volunteering has not only introduced me to the struggles faced by those from marginalised communities, but also the importance of Play in providing holistic development to a child’s mind. My perception of Play has gone past an object of entertainment – to me, Play can also be a way for people to learn, socialise and develop. Volunteering at Toybank is different, as one will always learn something new from every child and every play session.

Play helps children focus better
I used to think that play was a time outside studies, but volunteering with Toybank has changed my perception of it. I was not very confident of teaching and guiding children during play sessions really helped me.  I have played multiple games with children, thus helping them build skills of collaboration, independence, thinking and reflection. Play is a time when children can forget about the rest of the world, and just focus on the puzzle they are solving or the board games they are playing.

Volunteering has helped me achieve personal growth
Volunteering at Toybank has been a transformative journey, rooted in the belief that every child has the Right to Play. The essence of why I volunteer here is to witness the profound impact of play in shaping young minds. Toybank, an NGO championing play, resonates with me deeply, as it not only advocates for the joy of play, but recognises its pivotal role in a child’s holistic development. My journey with Toybank has reinforced the urgency for more individuals to volunteer with them. Through volunteering, one not only contributes to creating a positive impact but also experiences personal growth. It’s an opportunity to witness firsthand the transformative potential of play in shaping the future generation. 

Volunteering allows me to give and receive fun experiences 
Encouraging children to learn concepts in a fun and engaging manner helps develop their future understanding, as they are more likely to retain the information they learn if they can associate it with positive experiences and learning opportunities. Volunteering with Toybank has allowed me to tailor learning to children’s interests, as I haven’t necessarily played in a very long time. It provides me with the opportunity to both give and receive fun experiences in conjunction with the children.

Volunteering taught me the ability to interact, teach
Toybank’s idea is unique and what drew me to them is its interactive nature of the idea about playing games with young children and the ability to shape their minds. Volunteering has taught me the ability to interact and teach, while being caring and helpful. Play has subsequently changed my outlook on the way games can be used to increase the ability of learning in children. It has strengthened the idea that people should volunteer here so they, too, can get a perspective on the way play and games can be integrated into a child’s learning process

Play is a powerful tool for education and emotional well-being
Spending time with children during play sessions allows me to make a meaningful impact in the lives of children from vulnerable communities. By attending play sessions, I have learned that play is not just a form of entertainment; it’s a crucial part of a child’s development. It has taught me the importance of providing these children with opportunities to learn, grow, and simply enjoy their childhood. Volunteering with Toybank has changed my perception of play by showing me how it serves as a powerful tool for education and emotional well-being. It’s not just about having fun; it’s about fostering creativity, social skills, and resilience in these kids who may face various challenges in their lives.


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


Football Tournament at Changtang, Ladakh

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5 games to build empathy through play

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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)