The Program

Kidogo is a social enterprise that provides high-quality, affordable early childhood care and education for families living in urban informal settlements of Kenya. Kidogo adopts playful learning to provide individualized and developmentally appropriate learning experiences for each child. Kidogo implements a “hub-and-spoke” model to sustainably deliver high-quality ECCE program. Community “hub” centers serve as best-practice models for ECCE in urban informal settlements. The program also works to improve the quality of local babycare “spokes” through a micro-franchising program that delivers training, resources (curriculum materials, branding support, etc.), and ongoing support to “mama-preneurs” running their own child care centers. Traditionally, these local centers provide poor quality basic care with little to no stimulating activities; however, with Kidogo mentorship, centers become playful safe havens for young children.

Program components include:

  • The program’s newly developed curriculum draws from the Kenyan Institute of Education Early Childhood Development and Education syllabus, guidelines from Kenya Ministry of Education’s Early Childhood Development Service Standards, and other best practice approaches around playful learning including the Reggio Emilia approach, the Montessori Method, and Creative Curriculum.

  • Centers offer safe and stimulating physical environments, trained caregivers from the local community, a health and nutrition program, and an exploratory curriculum that uses learning stations and playful learning approaches. Children engage in various kinds of playful learning activities, including role playing, singing songs, and using locally available materials for arts and crafts activities.

  • Kidogo provides pre-service training, in-service training, mentorship support and peer learning opportunities to “Hub and Spoke” practitioners over a two-year period to support their implementation of playful learning. This teacher training program offers a three-tiered approach that is comprised of Foundational, Intermediate, and Advanced training in play-based and child-centered methodologies, which includes local material workshops, as well as practical advice for innovative, fun and creative activities in a number of areas differentiated by age group, spanning 6 months to 6 years.

Challenges

A big challenge for Kidogo is shifting mindsets to embrace playful learning. Although it has been difficult to counter stereotypes of what education should look like, Kidogo’s program has been able to gain buy-in from parents and practitioners who were previously skeptical of playful learning. For example, in the case of parents, those who have experienced the impact of Kidogo’s use of playful learning with their own children have been able to convince parents who are new to the approach of its benefits. Parents are also invited to centers to review their play-based curriculum and observe activities to see playful learning in action. For teachers who were skeptical of the approach, they are able to see the benefits to children, demonstrated by their excitement to learn.

Success Factors

Through its training model, the program is able to support practitioners to understand the benefits of playful learning and how to utilize it in their day to day interactions with children. This training model infuses play across five components, one of which is exclusively dedicated to its practice. The training model is also practical in nature and encourages active participation. Alongside modeling of different activities that practitioners can carry out in their practice, they are asked to think about how each activity relates to different domains of child development. For example, if activities involve singing songs, practitioners are encouraged to think about that activity’s impact on language, physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Through peer learning opportunities, Kidogo is able to support practitioners to share experiences in implementing playful learning. For example, practitioners from “spokes” are able to observe and interact with other practitioners in “Hub” centers to inform their own practice. This allows them to understand how and why play is an important tool in child development, rather than hear it as a theoretical point of view alone.

By sourcing customized furnishings for children from local artisans and in working with caregivers to craft handmade play and learning materials, Kidogo is able to integrate locally available resources in the implementation of playful learning.