Age-appropriate programming for CFS

Early Childhood (0-3 years)

  • It is important to focus on primary caregivers as they largely determine children’s responses to stressful events – young children who are fed, loved and tended to by their caregivers usually do well. Children sense distress and so mothers should be helped to feel calm so that they can be calm when caring for their child; mothers should be supported to find ways to continue to interact with their babies even if they are very worried or very busy.
  • Safety and security are especially important. Create private and comfortable space for mothers to be able to nurse and play with their children. Caregivers can also use these spaces to support one another and communicate with each other.
  • Hold small group discussions (4-5 mothers per group) on the following questions:
    • How has the emergency affected the way that mothers care for their babies?
    • What are the traditional ways that people in the community have for responding to their children during difficult or stressful times?
    • How do these traditions help children grow and learn?
    • Which of these traditions can be included in the CFS?
    • What other activities can be done at the CFS to help?
  • Engage mothers in stimulating activities with their infants – Singing, storytelling, ‘talking’ (sound mimicking), playing games like peek-a-boo
  • Engage community members in sharing their knowledge – e.g. older women, elders to teach traditional songs and stories for younger children and to engage in discussions on topics of interest and importance to the young mothers, e.g.
    • Nutrition support
    • Hygiene
    • Growth monitoring
    • Mother/child activities
    • Healthy child development
    • Parenting guidance and information
    • Immunisation and health information
    • Livelihood enhancement opportunities
    • Early intervention for children with difficulties
  • Additionally, it is important to encourage the use of relevant skills and information at home, through regular discussions of what they have been doing differently at home and how it is going.

Early Childhood (4-5 years)

  • Young preschool children may be very frightened by events and need to be helped to understand what has happened and to manage their fears – keeping them together with caregivers and reassuring them that they are cared for and loved are critical to helping them feel more secure.
  • The CFS must provide a calm, safe, and predictable environment.
  • Allow expression of fears and emotions through play and stories, and answer the same questions asked over and over again patiently but clearly.
  • Encourage a family member to attend the CFS with the child.
  • Older children need stimulating play. Monitoring children’s health and nutrition is also very important.
  • Other age groups can contribute to activities for children under 6 – e.g. older children, or grandmothers or other community members can play music or tell stories.
  • Activities include:
    • Telling traditional stories to the children
    • Singing traditional songs
    • Clapping games
    • Rhythm games with simple musical instruments such as sticks and bells
    • Group circle games
    • Traditional games
    • Free drawing
    • Learning numbers, letters and colours
    • Simple puzzles
    • Free play activities

Middle Childhood (6-12 years)

Children are developing their roles in communities and households; they have rapid ability to think, understand and articulate. They have increasing capacity to understand and respond to stressful circumstances. They also need to re-establish a sense of normalcy and have a predictable routine.

  • Assess the psychological state of children and provide with necessary support
  • Children should engage in familiar activities to help provide a sense of normalcy and routine
  • Nonformal education can create normalcy and builds important life skills such as cooperation, literacy, good hygiene, and knowledge about diseases and risks.
  • Games and sports give good opportunities for children to socialise
  • Encourage children to socialise and engage in activities such as role-playing, art, singing, dancing and story-telling, enabling them to communicate and express their feelings – children can begin to process experiences and regain a sense of being like other children and integrating with them.
  • Post daily activities for the week at children’s eye level
  • Make sure children know the rules of behaviour and they are visible
  • Teach children the principles of conflict resolution that help them feel that they can control their behaviour and solve problems with their peers
  • Provide opportunities for children to discuss their feelings and fears, and provide reassurance that they are cared for and protected
  • Make sure children have access to good, clear, factual information and that this information is repeated to children as often as needed
  • Play structured games and sports so that children have a chance to have fun in ways that are safe and in which the rules are in place
  • Encourage participation in safe/appropriate rituals that help children and families to heal
  • Help children participate in positive solutions to community problems according to their growing ability
  • Activities include:
    • Literacy and numeracy skills
    • Sports
    • Group games
    • Free drawing
    • Storytelling
    • Drama
    • Art activities (using clay, mask-making)
    • Music

Adolescence (12-18 years)

May have additional family burdens and facing increased risks so need specific protection measures. Youth are learning and defining their roles and responsibilities in society and planning for their future. They are better able than younger children to realise the effects of a disaster or conflict on their future. Teenagers also have greater capacities for planning, decision-making and organising. They can be invited to organise activities and can make decisions about which activities to conduct. CFS can include time specifically for youth activities like youth clubs, literacy classes etc

  • Make sure that youth have their own time for special activities that are meaningful for them.
  • Include literacy courses and life skills workshops about cooperation, communication and conflict-resolution
  • Ensure there is a wide range of relevant facilities and activities and roles and responsibilities for adolescents. They can also select and organise activities for themselves. Clubs can operate outside the CFS.
  • Supporting and mentoring younger children – e.g. starting activities such as coaching sports or helping with painting, song and dance
  • Youth can be engaged in community projects (e.g. clean up campaigns) and developing and performing dramas for the community on issues that are relevant to them
  • Discussion of issues with other youth is a valuable activity that can help them cope with current challenges in their lives
  • Youth should be:
    • Approached and treated in a respectful manner
    • Safe from exploitation
    • Free to speak their minds
    • Encouraged to have fun
    • Able to feel useful, enter age-appropriate social roles and help others
    • Able to learn and distribute important health and safety messages
    • Able to use their developing abilities to find and implement creative solutions to the real problems they and others face
  • Activities can include:
    • Use drama, song and dance to spread health and safety messages
    • Hold meetings to find ways to solve community problems
    • Create sports teams, dance and drama clubs
    • Arrange music, dance, drama performances for the community
    • Find age-appropriate ways to earn money

These ideas are gathered from resources created by Unicef and Save the Children. Click here for more resources, guidelines and ideas for activities


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