The Southern Education Desk and Alabama Public Television reported on the work of Life is good Playmakers in Alabama during our summer 2011 training tour, highlighting our two-day certification of 50 childcare professionals in that state.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More than 50 childcare providers across Alabama spent their weekend learning about the power of play and how it can help young children recover from trauma. The 2-day training retreat in Birmingham was hosted by the Life is Good Playmakers, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children overcome challenges. The group decided to come to Alabama after the state was hit by a massive tornado back in April, leaving many children scared and vulnerable.
This may not seem like an ordinary training retreat, but during all the fun and games, teachers were actually learning an important message.
“We’ve learned that play is crucial for children’s development and play can help children recover from trauma and play can also help children grow developmentally,” says Head Start teacher, Donna Webb.
Childcare providers weren’t just listening to why play is important. By engaging in their own playful activities, they were really able to see firsthand the benefits that come from play.
“Bob Marley said who feels it, knows it. You can’t just talk about joy, love, play, creativity and not do things that allow you to feel joy, connection and creativity,” says Chief Playmaker, Steve Gross. “So one of the things that we believe strongly in is you cannot spread something that you don’t have.”
The organization has been traveling up and down the east coast and instead of making a stop in Atlanta, they decided there was an even bigger need to “come play” in Alabama.
“We realized this might be a time when folks need us more than ever,” says Gross. “I mean, even children who maybe didn’t lose a house or lose a family member, just that feeling of vulnerability, of fear that something so destructive could come in and can change your world, even if it’s not on a conscious level, I think it impacts kids on a very, very deep level.”
Here in Alabama, Gross says teachers were able to attend specific training sessions that were focused on helping kids who have been impacted by the tornado. They learned how games can be therapeutic to children and the importance of having a “playfulness plan” to bring joy back into life. Webb hopes everything she learned at the retreat has equipped her to help her children recover in the classroom.
“I hope that we can bring them some joy back, teach them to play again, help them develop skills that will enable them to cope,” says Webb.