23 January, 2011


After seeing a couple of other children’s homes in the past few months one thing I was told was “keep them busy” or “as little free time as possible”. Now that doesn’t mean keep them working, for me it meant structured play! The more free time, the more they can become bored and look for something to do; which has trouble written all over it, especially for the small ones who usually get the brunt end of the deal. With that in mind, I wanted more structured play…but in order to do that, we need a structured play area.

Toys and other play things are donated randomly and volunteers bring games and such, but without a place to put them and without supervision, these don’t last long. It’s very difficult to keep pieces to toys (Lego’s for example) all together with 50+ sets of hands (100+ if you count individually!) wanting to play with them.
Wayne suggested the other side of the hospice; which when I left was the computer room. The computer room has now been moved to the school house, so the space only housed one computer, bookshelf and chairs. With the help of volunteer, Deb, we transformed the space into a play room. This would not have been possible without the 2 large suitcases of donated toys, color books, crayons, markers, puzzles, Lego’s and many more items. Before I came back, Deb had been taking the kids (a couple at a time) into the volunteer dorm porch and letting them play with the stuff.

Once the room was cleaned spotless by Shanah who is one of the greatest cleaners of all time!! Deb is a nurse, so while she was going through all the medicines in the hospice side (throwing out all the expired ones), I started rearranging all the books, and figuring out the best way to organize things. With limited space I had to be a little creative and had to find a place for many of the supplies well out of the reach of the kids. I wanted this room to be complete ‘structured play’ with toys in their proper individual containers/areas.

Some of the little ones who are too young for school were allowed in while things were put into their place. The next day we were open for business and the day brought a few of the young ones in to color and play with the one Lego set Deb bought in Phnom Penh. Day 2 brought in more (once the word got out) and Deb took a well deserved break with Socheat, looking at photo’s

and by the third day we had 20+ kids in all afternoon. – Although the school year is technically in session, we never know when they will come home as maybe a teacher didn’t show up therefore the kids are free to come home, or sit in the classroom if they want to. The kids played and played and colored and colored and created and used their minds!

Deb started the children requesting “Deb [or Melinda] May I Come In” before entering; which is not only teaching them manners, but it’s helping with their English as well! I implemented the “No Food” policy after Mr. Way brought a hardboiled egg in to eat. (personally, I can’t stand the smell of that!) Plus, lack of food helps with varmint and insect control.

Lack of gender specified play is soooooo refreshing to see, but not sure about the truckload of babies…

Chess (with their own rules I think...)

Lego’s big and small are always a hit!

As are the stuffed caterpillars and puzzles.

But most of all, they love to COLOR!

(even the teacher got caught up in the fun!)

We have quickly outgrown this space, so a new play place is in the mental making; giving the kids more separated areas for the different age groups.

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