Exploring Various Approaches to ECD

ECD and the CTPC

The concept of ECD programmes in CTPC projects was first explored by the 2010 ECD Team in Monwabisi Park, an informal settlement located on the outskirts of Cape Town. The team observed how ECD was run in the area, both out of formal and informal crèches and homes. They also observed different programmes, such as Sikhula Sonke’s Family Community Motivators home-visiting programme and a parent empowerment playgroup programme. From this, the team was able to collaborate with their sponsor and help design an Emthonjeni Programme. In this model, non-centre ECD delivery sites are created around environmental features, specifically water taps. “Emthonjeni” is an isiXhosa word meaning a “well” or a “source” (Art Map South Africa, 2015). These Emthonjeni sites  complement ECD centres, and are specifically designed to take advantage of the natural environment of the settlement (Barbour et al., 2015). The sites would balance promoting community togetherness, while also integrating the topic of ECD.

The 2014 Expanding Health, Education and Wellbeing Services WaSH-UP Team established an afterschool care programme at the local WaSH-UP centre in Langrug. They witnessed how critical it was for children to have a safe place to play and to learn basic skills after the school day is over. By the time the project was completed, the WaSH-UP centre was offering children a meal, playtime, and naptime. These programmes were made engaging and exciting through the use of fun educational posters, hand-painted murals, and painted numbers and letters (George, Haley, Myers, & Ullery, 2014). The WaSH-UP centre was also renovated to create an inviting and thriving atmosphere that helped increase the success and participation of these WaSH-UP services. Various small additions, combined with the afterschool services, established a safe and nurturing environment for children and other community members that extends beyond the classroom (George et al., 2014).

Equally important to the education of young children is the development of interpersonal skills. Time spent in the classroom is highly recommended, but interacting with children their own age in a controlled and safe environment is critical. The 2013 MGV Park Redevelopment Team conducted research on the impact of “park play” on ECD and concluded that playtime is as equally important in a child’s early development as education in a classroom (Bahtiarian, Collins, Connors, & Goddard, 2013). The MGV Park Team also reinforced the importance of flexible environments for children to grow and learn in.

Further confirming the findings of the MGV Park Team is the plan of action taken by the 2014 Flamingo Team. In their background research, the Flamingo Team from 2014 recognised that a recreational or “play” area is necessary for children to further build and develop their social skills (Brousseau et al., 2015).  The playground that they built was eco-friendly, used recycled materials, and received positive feedback from the community.

Exploring a SPICE Framework

A survey of several early childhood learning strategies in the UK by Manwaring and Taylor (2006) has shown that playtime allows children to develop skills that often cannot be learned in a formal classroom setting. Many educators are currently voicing concern that new educational guidelines are limiting the amount of playtime provided in school, as more time is dedicated to formal lessons. Manwaring and Taylor (2006) have developed a model that outlines the importance of providing unstructured playtime to children in the form of the SPICE acronym (see Figure 1). The model encompasses social, physical, intellectual, creative and cultural, and emotional progress in youth. There are four developmental domains under the SPICE model: cognitive, language, physical, and social and emotional.

In terms of SPICE, Chatterjee (2015) says that the cognitive developmental domain includes both intellectual and creative advancement. Intellectually, thought processes, attention span, and memory are formed and strengthened. Creativity in the cognitive domain stems from a child’s prior knowledge, past experiences, and imagination. Communication skills, which are linked to the social and creative categories of SPICE, fall under the language development domain. As a child’s language skills improve, their vocabulary expands and they understand both verbal and nonverbal cues. Another category in the SPICE model is physical; this focuses on the physical growth and maturation of children’s bodies. The rate at which a child grows can be affected and even stunted by malnutrition and illness, which is a prevalent problem in under-resourced communities. Socially, young children begin learning how to play and cooperate with others. Through observations and experiences, they begin to recognise and understand others’ emotions. Similarly, they not only experience, but learn to interpret and control their own feelings in moments of high emotion. Finally, emotional development results in the formation of self-esteem, which in turn plays a role in how children react to and experience all of the previously mentioned social and emotional insights.

Figure 1: The SPICE Acronym (Chatterjee, 2015)

Figure 1: The SPICE Acronym (Chatterjee, 2015)

Understanding Mother and Toddler Interactions

Interactions between mothers and their children below crèche age are crucial for both individuals. Figure 2 outlines some specific activities that help encourage a strong bond between the two. For mothers, ECD services that emphasise this type of interaction offer an opportunity to spend time out of the home and to meet other women experiencing similar challenges and emotions. As a result, they are more able to build a support network to turn to for advice (Glover, 2015). For the infants and toddlers, services of this nature strengthen parent-child bonds, foster physical and intellectual development, and introduce children to social situations with people their own age (What to Expect, 2014).

ECD outreach services that offer a range of activities are the most beneficial because they offer growth in many areas of development. Scheduling planned times for mothers to read to their babies promotes literacy skills, stimulates critical thinking, sparks imagination, and increases vocabulary. By encouraging questions from their young ones, parents are in turn encouraging enjoyable reading in the future (Jones, 2013).

In addition to reading, physical activities positively impact the growth of young children. By encouraging sports and outdoor play at an early age, parents help foster healthy physical growth. Practicing sports skills helps improve a child’s fine and gross motor skills, preparing them for life, whether or not they choose to competitively engage in sports as they get older (What to Expect, 2015). Activities as simple as rolling a ball back and forth with a baby is enough to promote hand-eye coordination, encourage visual tracking, and build finger strength. This also teaches children about playing with others by introducing them to a back and forth form of play, rather than individual entertainment (What to Expect, 2015).

Figure 2. Activities that promote toddler development (Glover, 2015; Jones 2013; What to Expect, 2014)

Figure 2. Activities that promote toddler development (Glover, 2015; Jones 2013; What to Expect, 2014)

South African ECD Organisations

Early Learning Resource Unit

Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU) is a non-profit and public benefit organisation that aims to develop and improve the educational system, teaching children from 0 to 9 years of age. The organisation is based out of Lansdowne, Cape Town and has been working towards improving the early childhood development centres in the area for more than 36 years. The group has four main modes through which they do their work: capacity building, research, materials development, and advocacy. Capacity building is accomplished through teacher training via short courses and workshops, post-training support and advice, and by holding Family and Community Motivator (FCM) Programmes. ELRU researches education policies, performs ECD audits, pilots programme developments, and works with curriculum development. ELRU develops materials that include teacher and parental guides, publications for children, research reports, and public messages to raise ECD awareness. The organisation advocates for progress in ECD methods through campaigns, dialogues, lobbying, and policy interventions (ELRU, 2015). For more information, visit their website at www.elru.co.za.


Grassroots is a non-profit organisation located in Athlone, Cape Town that has been serving the local community for over 34 years. This organisation works to approach the topic of ECD holistically by setting up a strong foundation and interest in learning when children are young, mainly from 0 to 5 years of age. To aid with this approach, Grassroots hosts many training sessions for caregivers and ECD practitioners. The organisation focuses on vital issues such as abuse, health, and basic children rights. There are also training sessions specifically for those caring for babies and toddlers. The main type of programme Grassroots implements, with the help and support of a community, is “Playgroup Programmes.” To establish a playgroup, Grassroots staff train unemployed parents and involve many families to create safe environments for children. These programmes help foster community development and growth. With specific guidance, they allow communities the choice to run and adapt the programmes the way they see fit. For more information, visit their website at grassroots.org.za.

Centre for Early Childhood Development

The Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) is a non-profit organisation established over 20 years ago located in Claremont, Cape Town.  As an organisation, they have the capability to spread ECD throughout the entire country to increase accessibility to ECD even in very remote areas. One area of focus is helping communities grow and develop through governing body training sessions. This allows settlements to work to establish a strong foundation by uniting under common goals and then being able to progress forward officially as a community. Additionally, CECD provides assistance with the registration process for various businesses, such as crèches. Besides these unique programmes, the organisation also hosts basic ECD workshops where it offers parent education sessions and health informational meetings. For more information, visit their website at www.cecd.org.za.

Sikhula Sonke

Sikhula Sonke is a non-profit organisation located in Khayelitsha, Cape Town that caters to ECD for children from 0 to 9 years of age. Sikhula Sonke works to provide communities with ECD training and guidance for caregivers and teachers. This is done through teacher training programmes and Family and Community Motivator Programme sessions that give support to non-centre based learning. These programmes teach skills, but also help these teachers and caregivers learn how to create ECD stimulation and provide children with physical, emotional, intellectual, and social support.  One really important resource Sikhula Sonke has established in townships are toy library services. These toy libraries can be used by community members that live nearby and create another safe space for children to play. Additionally, various ECD materials can be taken from the libraries and used for programmes and by families in the surrounding area. By having this mobile aspect, they are able to reach out to more people and increase the effectiveness of their sessions. For more information, visit their website at www.ssonke.org.za.