Engaging in physical activity with friends at a young age allows us to explore and teaches us valuable social skills. This kind of experiential learning has always been at the heart of Open Streets in Cape Town. For us, it’s about showing people of all ages there’s another way when it comes to using streets.
It can be a tough sell, though, considering children playing outside has become almost taboo in our society, which tells us – rightfully – that our streets aren’t safe. But the joy of play is palpable at every Open Streets Day, which provides a risk-reduced environment free of cars. Our hope is that one day more of our streets will be this way by default.
It’s an ethos we share with Play Africa, a Joburg-based NPO that aims to bridge divides to bring children and families together. Like Open Streets, Play Africa creates neutral spaces for all.
Situated at the Old Fort complex at Constitution Hill, Play Africa houses the continent’s first children’s museum. It has fully interactive exhibits, offering hands-on experiences in arts, ecology, engineering, geography, health, literacy, maths, science and technology.
The organisation’s focus is on play-based, hands-on learning for children and parents alike. It offers early childhood development and early learning programmes for kids from birth to age 10, as well as programmes that help boost parents’ and caregivers’ play confidence. And it gives parents support so they can provide meaningful, stimulating play opportunities at home.
Play Africa’s founder and CEO Gretchen Wilson-Prangley, says: “We seek to help transform the landscape of our city for children and for families. We are advancing a movement to catalyse lifelong learning, strengthen family connections, and break down South Africa’s ongoing spatial segregation and social divides.”
Play Africa also takes these exhibits and programmes on the road to locations such as school halls, parks and community centres across Joburg. This makes play accessible to children from all social spheres and brings children of all abilities together.
Like Open Streets, the organisation relies on a team of facilitators and volunteers. We have much in common in this regard and can certainly relate when Gretchen says. “The sense of wonder and possibility is visible in the children as well as the volunteers. It’s amazing to see hate and fear give way to love and joy.”
Since March, 1400 children have been to the museum at Constitution Hill, and countless more have experienced its mobile exhibitions. Play Africa is now looking at scaling up and bringing the children’s museum experience to kids across the country.
Gretchen says: “Play Africa creates unique, magical experiences that lead to positive memory making. All children deserve a secure environment to play, learn, experience and grow.”
We couldn’t agree more, and would love to see Play Africa at an Open Streets Day in future!
For more information on Play Africa, visit http://playafrica.org.za. If you’d like to partner with the organisation, or can help with transportation of its mobile exhibitions, please contact Gretchen at firstname.lastname@example.org.