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‘Not by bread alone’ : impact of a structured 90- minute play session on development of children in an orphanage

Abstract Background and objectives In developing countries,caring for the large number of babies in orphanages is very hard work.Whereas the physical needs of most of the children are met,play often gets neglected.Studies have repeatedly shown that babies in such institutionalized settings suffer from severe psychomotor retardation.The aim of this project was to develop an intervention programme of structured play.We hypothesized that such an intervention would result in acceleration of psychosocial development in otherwise healthy institutionalized children. Design Prospective longitudinal. Setting Mother Teresa’s Orphanage, run by Missionaries of Charity. Subject and methods All 30 children in the orphanage aged 6 months–2.5 years,were assessed for their Motor,Mental and Social Quotients,using the Indian adaptation of Bailey’s Scale of Infant Development(DASII) and the Vineland’s Social Maturity Scale.A structured ‘Regime of Play’was then built into the routine of the orphanage.A repeat developmental assessment was performed at the end of 3months to assess the impact. Results Out of the original cohort of 30,19 children were available for post-intervention assessments.The remainder were adopted before their assessments.Their mean Motor Quotient rose from 63.7 to 81.7,mean Mental Quotient rose from 65.8 to 89.6 and the mean Social Quotient rose from 61.9 to 91.3,a gain of 18,23 and 30 points respectively (p< 0.0001).There was also an overall change in the environment of the orphanage.Children became more active,playful, responsive and independent.Contrary to what caretakers assumed, their workload actually decreased.The responsiveness in the children awakened as a result of play,acted as a positive feedback for caretakers to continue the play sessions. Conclusions This study shows that short daily sessions of play can significantly improve the development of children in such institutions. It is vital to remember that children grow ‘Not by Bread Alone’