SOFT Tulip shares the benefits of the FloorPlay method
Play is inseparable from a child's development; it helps children express themselves, learn about and discover the world. FloorPlay is a new child-centered, play-based approach that is gaining increased attention. But, this method is not just about parents playing with their children on the floor; it encourages parents to follow their children's cues and interests. During FloorPlay the child is the director, and the parent is the co-director. The parent's role is to challenge their child to communicate, solve problems and be creative.
ISSA Member SOFT Tulip's Director, Eric Bloemkolk, explains the benefits of the method and how it can be used to help parents connect with their children. For the past two years, the Dutch foundation has trained experts in different countries in Central and Eastern Europe and has been obtaining great results. The secret of its success could be explained by increasing the communication between parent and child through play with simple materials. By using play in daily routines, FloorPlay allows parents and children to play together wherever they are.
How is FloorPlay different from other pedagogical programs?
Early childhood intervention programs often focus on the treatment of the child with developmental problems. In this case, the work is done with the parents or staff at daycare centers who learn that the child is the director and that the parents, caregivers, and other family members are co-directors. This is the main paradigm shift! An advantage is that FloorPlay offers a clear and understandable assessment tool, which comes in the form of a learning tree with straightforward tips and terms. The trunk of this tree is divided into six socio-emotional developmental levels of typically developing children. They help parents and practitioners understand which developmental level the child is in. For each level, interventions are developed, with practical play exercises for stimulating communication and development. FloorPlay is an excellent instrument for early intervention pedagogy.
How does SOFT tulip implement FloorPlay?
We started in 2018, and since then, we have given training to practitioners in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Moldova. The last two trainings have been in partnership with other ISSA Members ('For Our Children' in Bulgaria and 'Voinicel' in Moldova). In the Netherlands, our affiliated service providers offer the FloorPlay method in Amsterdam and the Hague in daycare centers for young children with disabilities and developmental delays and at home with the family.
In Ukraine, we also trained parents directly through advocacy workshops for the National Parents Movement for Early Intervention. We also helped to create an initiative to lobby for early intervention in that country.
We hope to implement the method online for practitioners working in other countries within the current COVID-19 crisis. Implementation could be carried out with organizations with some experience in this field. But at this moment in the crisis, our trainers, who work as care providers in the Netherlands, face huge challenges and have no time for training. Practitioners can perfectly coach parents via Skype or other online platforms. It is, indeed, a good opportunity now for parents to practice the play exercises from FloorPlay at home.
To whom is this program addressed?
The program is for children from 9 months to 4 or 5 years old. But we are talking about the child's emotional development age, which doesn't have to match the biological one. This method helps children with developmental difficulties better communicate, interact and grow emotionally, which is the basis for cognitive development. So, I would say that it is a method that also works for older children that have a socio-emotional development level of a typically developed child of -much- younger age. We often see it with children with autism, who may excel on a cognitive level but are emotionally incapable of relating well with others. No matter their biological age, such a method is beneficial for them.
How do you get the parents and practitioners involved?
Parents must be willing and able to engage with their child and understand the benefit. If parents themselves suffer from emotional development delays, and their children do as well, it is unfortunately challenging. But, we have also seen that, in some cases, practitioners teach them how to do it. These parents manage to copy the play and communication with their child at home and implement them little by little. This requires more intense coaching of the parents, of course. When it comes to practitioners, I have to say that FloorPlay can be difficult. They have to change their mindset. They are used to "treating" the child. This method asks them to step back and let the child be the leader and coach the parent or caregiver.
Are the six levels defined in the "tree trunk" meant to be accomplished by all participants?
The earlier the method is implemented, the better the results are. The whole idea of the method is that once we share it with the practitioners and then with the parents, it will be implemented at daycare and home. It is very practical. It identifies socio-emotional development and the child's capabilities and weak points. It offers useful tools to increase communication with simple toys, nothing fancy, implementing it in the daily routine, and using what is around. Children with mental disabilities will often never reach level 4.
The socio-emotional development levels, symbolized in the learning tree's trunk, help provide clarity for parents and practitioners. The tree helps them analyze the state of a child's development and improvements. That is its incredible value – it is clear, practical, and effective. But, as always, you need well-trained practitioners!