When you take a trip with The Boaz Project one thing you will notice is that while spending time with the children we tend to play. . . A LOT.
For some, like myself, this is one of the best parts of the trip. For others, playing may not be all fun and games. Regardless of which category you fall into, you should know that there is always a purpose behind our play.
You see, there is a type of therapy called “laughter therapy.” Studies have shown that laughter reduces stress and relieves pain. Whether it is a child who has come from trauma or not, learning can be hard, and developing brains can easily be overwhelmed. This is especially true of children from trauma. But laughter therapy encourages their brains to release endorphins, which helps them feel better and enhances the developmental processes.
We incorporate laughter therapy into our trips by using two types of play with the children we visit: structured and free play.
In our VBs curriculum we intentionally split up sections by using games or crafts that reiterate the lessons that we are teaching, this is structured play. Structured play teaches a lesson, promotes different styles of learning, all while allowing our kids to relax and have fun.
For example, on this last trip to India the lesson we were teaching was over the topic of peer pressure. The children seemed to understand the topic, but when we played our game everything was put into perspective. You see, the game required someone to be blindfolded, a square made of tape on the ground, and good/bad influences (a.k.a. the children who weren’t blindfolded) to be divided. The good influences were trying to guide the blindfolded friend into the square with touching while the bad influences were trying to keep them out. And they could only use their voices.
After a few rounds, the lesson really clicked. The children verbalized that the voices of their peers were loud and it was hard to know who to trust. They also realized that sometimes the voices they were trusting were the bad influences.
While these games are simple, they teach valuable life lessons. Sure, they children would have been able to grasp the lesson, but it is when they could really “practice” it in a safe environment and discuss it after that they are able to better comprehend why we are teaching these lessons.
We also do free play. This is where we let the children lead the play. We will take games, balls, and toys and let the children run free.
Usually, before the tools for play are even all out, there are children picking which game they’re going to play and running up to you, asking you to play with them. This is typically the highlight of my day. I love being able to play soccer with boys or catch with the girls. This free play allows the children to truly relax, and you quickly see their personalities come through.
So when you’re on your next trip, take note of the laughter that’s happening. Know that this is crucial. Come prepared to connect with the children and help their brains develop and relax through lots of games and play. And don’t be surprised if you notice your stress levels decrease as well.
“Doing small things with great love,”
The Boaz Project, Inc.