TOY for Inclusion brings a mobile Play Hub to Rome

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It’s Monday morning and soon the Ex Fienile will be buzzing with families coming to play in their mobile Play Hub. But for the families, the experience will be much more than play.

Since the end of September 2020, this mobile Play Hub is open two days a week in the Ex Fienile Play Hub’s garden. It is offering an alternative to indoor activities, providing children and families with an opportunity to meet in a safe space during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mobile Play Hub is full of toys for various age groups. During opening hours, the staff does activities with children and their parents. Activities promote cognitive and relational skills. Most importantly, they support inclusion and integration by connecting families from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Every Monday morning at the Ex Fienile Play Hub, a group of parents attends an Italian language course while their children play in the nearby mobile Play Hub. Thanks to this arrangement, their children can play independently — their parents always within view.

Once a month, the language course hosts a special session. During this time, parents share their parenting experiences with their own unique cultural and educational perspectives. Tor Vergata University organizes this session, and Anthropology professor Piero Vereni facilitates it.

On Wednesday mornings, items for babies are distributed in personalised packages. During this time, parents can play alongside their children. They also have the chance to socialize and receive parenting tips in a more informal environment.

The mobile Play Hub is becoming an essential meeting point for parents of children who do not go to school. Many mothers say that the Play Hub is important to them because it is the only opportunity for their children to meet and play with other children in a safe place, supported by professional educators.

Children from ages five months to three years old attend this Play Hub. They live in a vulnerable socio-economic context. Those working at the Play Hub aim to develop strong relationships with families and to use the Play Hub as a bridge to formal early childhood educational services.

The beneficiaries are pleased to participate in activities and have a safe space to meet each other after a lengthy lockdown period. In this unstable period, parents often worry about the future and look to educators for support. That is part of what make this space so meaningful, beneficiaries and staff are proactively building a community of support together.

Recently, a mother attending the mobile Play Hub shared, “my baby never wants to go home because she enjoys playing with other children! At home, she plays by herself”.

The mobile Play Hub will move around the neighbourhood as soon as measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are lifted. For now, it remains in the Ex Fienile Play Hub’s garden.

Stay tuned for information on an upcoming online event, which will launch the TOY for Inclusion Virtual Pop-Up Museum, present insights into bringing a Play Hub to your community, and provide a glimpse at the mobile Play Hub!