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Unicef’s ‘magic boxes’ keep youngsters in Covid-hit communities stay interested in school

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With the prolonged closure of early childhood development centres in high-risk areas of Samut Sakhon, Unicef (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) has started distributing “magic boxes” to help engage young children.

So far, 1,000 magic boxes – packed with books, toys and learning materials – have been delivered to families with children under the age of six in Thai and migrant communities in areas that have been severely affected by the outbreak.

The agency is also working closely with the local administration and non-governmental organisations to ensure disadvantaged children and families receive the supplies and support they need.

Extended school closure has affected children’s ability to learn and poses long-term consequences for their well-being, especially for young children from the most excluded and vulnerable groups.

“The first six years of life are the most important for the child’s growth and lifelong learning as children’s brains develop most rapidly during this period,” said Kyungsun Kim, Unicef’s representative for Thailand. “Therefore, any disruptions to play, stimulation and learning during this period will negatively impact a child's development. We know that many early childhood development services have been interrupted due to the pandemic, meaning children's physical, emotional and social development relies entirely on their caregivers at home. That's why we came up with the idea of the ‘magic box’ to help parents with limited resources play and read with their young children at home so children will continue to learn and develop during this crucial period of life."

Even before the pandemic, few parents were engaging their young children in activities that support their learning and development. According to the recent survey, only six in 10 mothers and three in 10 fathers engage in four or more activities that promote learning and school readiness. Also, only three in 10 children under the age of five have at least three children's books at home. This situation is even worse among the poorest families.

Apart from distributing these magic boxes and other supplies, Unicef is also helping the NGO Proud Association organise recreational activities and provide psychological first aid to children and migrant families suffering during the pandemic.

Published : March 30, 2021

By : The Nation