• Play: It’s Healthy


    by Adriana Ermter

    While there are few things in the world that everyone agrees on, the desire for children to learn how to protect themselves from disease is at the top of the list. In many countries, that means educating children and youth about HIV and AIDs. Important stuff, right? We think so.

    It's why we teach our life-saving lessons in play-based settings, like: on the floor for a session of arts and crafts, on the soccer field for a fast-paced match or in a circle for a round of our Choosing Self activity—a game that builds kids' self-esteem by turning negative self-messages and stigmas surrounding HIV and AIDs into positive ones.

    In this game, the players are asked to think about the hurtful things they say to themselves, like: "I'm not smart," "I'm bad because I'm sick" or "I'm not good enough." The kids write one of their negative messages onto a card and hand it in to the Coach. The cards are shuffled and the kids are divided into teams. Each team receives a talking stick and a stack of the cards. One by one, the talking stick is passed around the circles as each child chooses a card, reads the negative statement written on it out loud and asks the group to turn the message into a positive one.

    When the stack of cards is depleted, the children are given a different set of cards—all featuring positive statements about their health, intelligence, creativity, relationships, appearance and more. The children are asked to choose the proactive messages they believe apply to them.

    Once they've completed this task, the entire group connects to reflect on the experience.

    This is a powerful part of the game as the kids open up, sharing their personal insight into how negative self-talk affects their self-esteem and perpetuates stigmas around those living with HIV and AIDs. Together, the group determines how to support one another, how to protect themselves from disease and how to apply their newly learned behaviour to everyday life.  

    It's a lot to absorb, but it works. Because when we play with kids while teaching them, it ensures they aren't simply memorizing our lessons. Rather, they're putting them into action, over and over again until the lesson feels normal, turns into a new routine and finally, becomes a shared behaviour.

    This is how we create sustainable change.

    And thanks to you, our games empower over one million children in our programs with health-based knowledge, newfound acceptance and understanding, and a strong sense of self-worth. We're changing how children behave and that's life-saving.