Sabeena, one of our Youth Workers, explores the power of play and how she’s been able to use it to within mentoring relationships as a catalyst for change:
Imagine a world where children are free to explore, create, and thrive. A world where mentors step up to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children facing emotional or behavioral difficulties. In this world, the simple act of play becomes a catalyst for change, forging deep connections, fostering growth, and nurturing a better tomorrow. Welcome to the transformative power of mentoring.
In the heart of my mentoring journey with Chance UK, I discovered a remarkable truth: play has the power to ignite the spark of joy and resilience in every child. It was during a seemingly ordinary park visit with the young person I mentor that a breakthrough occurred. My mentee, initially disinterested and finding parks “boring,” experienced a transformation that altered our mentoring dynamic. With a burst of creativity, I introduced a game, and suddenly the world opened up. We laughed, we explored, and we created our own rules. We called this game ‘Enchanted Park Quest’ and incorporated elements of adventure, exploration and creativity. The park served as a magical setting for the game, with its lush greenery, winding paths and its seesaws and slides serving as various landmarks. The player’s main objective was to embark on a quest to retrieve a stolen artifact. To encourage creativity and engagement, the child could create their own rules within certain boundaries. That single moment set us on a path of wild adventure, where each session brought new opportunities for growth and connection.
The allure of digital screens and structured activities has encroached upon our children’s lives, leaving less room for unstructured play and genuine connection. However, the great outdoors beckons with boundless potential. As my mentee discovered the joys of open spaces, something magical unfolded. Laughing and running freely, they unleashed a rush of dopamine—the neurotransmitter of pleasure and motivation. In a world tethered to TVs and iPads, the importance of physical movement and the exhilaration of being untamed cannot be overstated.
Beyond the surface-level fun, play forms the foundation for profound growth. Through play, children build bridges of trust and connection, transcending the barriers that often isolate them. In the realm of play, they find a safe and supportive space where their voice matters and their ideas flourish. With each successful game completed or art project finished, a newfound sense of pride illuminates their eyes. This sense of accomplishment cascades into other aspects of their life, bolstering their confidence and resilience, and empowering them to navigate challenges with newfound courage.
In today’s fast-paced and digitally saturated world, unstructured playtime is becoming a rarity. For children facing emotional or behavioral difficulties, the obstacles are even greater. But programs like Chance UK offer a glimmer of hope. By providing children with the opportunity to engage in unstructured play with dedicated mentors, we can break down the barriers that so often hold them back. We create spaces where their imagination can roam free, where they can form meaningful connections, and where they can unlock their full potential.
Now, more than ever, we must appreciate and advocate for the transformative power of play and mentoring. Let our children champion unstructured playtime, and be encouraged to explore, create, and connect with the world around them. Together, we can shape a tomorrow where every child has the opportunity to thrive, where play becomes a catalyst for healing, growth, and lifelong success.