SOFT Tulip shares the benefits of the FloorPlay method
Play is inseparably linked to a child's development. It helps children express themselves, learn about and discover the world. A new child-centered, play-based approach is gaining increased attention. FloorPlay is a method that goes beyond the basic idea of 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, making the parent’s role 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 parents and child through play with simple materials. By using play in the daily routine FloorPlay improves the communication between parent and child, allowing parents and children to play together wherever they are.
How is FloorPlay different from other pedagogical programs?
Very often early childhood intervention programs are focused 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 members of the family are co-directors. This is a main paradigm shift! An advantage is that FloorPlay offers a very clear and understandable assessment tool, which comes in the form of a learning tree with clear tips and terms. The trunk of this tree is divided into six socio-emotional developmental levels of typical developing children. They help parents and practitioners to understand in which developmental level is the child. For each level, interventions are developed, with practical play exercises that stimulate the communication and the child's 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 Czech Republic, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Moldova, these last two 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 areas, 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, that are part of the National Parents Movement for Early Intervention. That is an initiative we also helped to create to lobby for early intervention in that country.
Within the current Corona crisis, we hope we can still implement the method online to practitioners working in other countries. This could be done with organizations who already have some experience in this field. But at this moment in the crisis our trainers, who work at care providers in the Netherlands, face huge challenges themselves 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 meant 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 to better communicate, interact and grow emotionally, which is the basis for cognitive development. So, I would say that it is a method that works also for older children that have a socio-emotional development level of a typical developed child of -much- younger age. We see it often with children with autism, who may excel on a cognitive level but are emotionally incapable to relate well with others. No matter their biological age, such a method is beneficial for them.
How do you get the parents and practitioners involved?
From the side of the parents, it is important that they are willing and able to engage with their child and that they are capable to understand the benefit of it. If parents themselves suffer from emotional development delays, as their kids do, it is unfortunately very difficult. But, we have also seen that, in some cases, practitioners learn them how to do it. These parents manage to copy the play and communication with their child at home, and little by little implement them. This requires a 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 treat the child, and this method asks from them to step back, to let the child be the leader and to coach the parent or caregiver.
The six levels defined in the "tree trunk", are 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 it is transmitted, from us to the practitioners and from them to the parents, it will be implemented at daycare and home. It is very practical. It identifies the socio-emotional development and the capabilities and the weak points of the child. It offers practical tools to increase communication with simple toys, nothing fancy, implementing it in the daily routine and making use of what it is around. Children with mental disabilities will often never reach level 4.
The socio-emotional development levels, symbolized in the trunk of the learning tree, is a very clarifying one for parents and practitioners. This helps them to analyze well the state of the child's development and its improvements. That is its great value – it is clear, practical and effective. But you need well trained practitioners!