Is it still child’s play when a global pandemic comes around?!

Getting to know Britt and the journey of her first internship

Hello I am Britt Hoofwijk, a third year occupational therapy student, studying in the Netherlands at the university of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences in Heerlen. I have just started my first ever internship this year, which is partly located at an elementary school and partly at an OT-clinic for kids. My tasks included that I stimulate the overall development of the children during their regular school duties. Using the classic child-OT in the clinic and with a project called ‘Beweeg me te leren’ on the elementary school. ‘Beweeg me te leren’ is translated to ‘Move me to learn’. This project was made by two former teachers of mine, Jolien van Houten and Rianne Jansens, as well as by the director of all primary schools: Ron Crutzen. And last but not least my supervisor Esther Dibbets – van de Bool who is also the owner of the clinic where I have my internship.

An insight into the “Beweeg me te leren” project

Well then, what is this project called ‘Beweeg me te leren’? Well, in essence, it’s an innovating project which has the purpose of stimulating the social and extracurricular integration of kids in inclusive schooling. This is done on the basis of playful learning. As it is well known; physical activity intervention programs have a positive impact on the academic achievements of elementary schoolkids. Many studies have confirmed the positive impacts on the academic achievements. Take a look at the studies of (Westendorp, 2014) and (Käll, Nilsson, & Lindén, 2014) for example.

But, what is it exactly that we’re doing now on these schools to enhance the academic achievement of the schoolkids? Well to explain it briefly, the recipe of this project is repitition of sensory motor skills while participating in playful, sensory and motor-stimulated trails, all while executing school duties.

But then COVID-19 spread and it kinda ruined their plans

All of my tasks were going great and being able to make and perform the trails was an absolute blast! But then, as you all are aware of: covid-19 came along. Thus the children weren’t allowed to attend school programs nor go at the clinic.

So now what? How do I perform school- and children activities without any kids? Well, the answer to that is: creativity, thinking out of the box and staying positive! But also a lot of new work, working together and communication between teachers, occupational-therapists, interns, the parents and of course the kids themselves.

This collection of stakehoulders is trying their hardest to make this situation work for the children. Teachers are developing and handing out workbooks for homeschooling. Occupational therapists are making sure the kids and their parents are being heard and supported in their needs. The parents are now often working from home, where they will be able to supervise their kids.

And as far as I am concerned, what am I doing? Under guidance of my supervisor Esther Dibbets – van de Bool, I am working on bringing the ‘beweeg me te leren’-trails to the people’s homes in our region, in co-operation with my fellow interns. This time without professional materials (such as stepping stools and balance bars) as we were provided with in schools, but with the stuff we have at home and a little bit of creativity. For example: chalk, robe and sticks can be used to make a challenging trail. As you can already see on the pictures below; there is a lot to create with the things we have around us. You just need to think outside of the box!


I’m creating these trails as an extra option for the children to do. Because let’s be real, it is simply a hard and exhausting time for children. They won’t be able to see their friends for a while, they’ll be missing their routine and they’ll probably even miss the save heaven that school could offer them. Therefor I wouldn’t want to make these trails mandatory. But just because the kids are occupied with their tablets a lot throughout the day and outdoors playing is prohibited (such as public playgrounds, amusement parks, sport clubs etc.): it would be a fun, stimulating, playfull and educational alternation in the dayprogram.

So, in case you’re still wondering about the main question of this blog: Is it still childs play when a global pandemic comes around? No, no it is not easy nor childs play to deal with this situation. You need a lot of creativity, positivity, solution-oriented, communication, work and willpower. But you’ll get a community which works with everyone and for everyone as a result. And I think that that’s a beautifull outcome of such an awfull situation.

Importance message

Take home message: Even though we’ll have to stay at home the coming time;
Stay creative, stay learning and stay moving!

Get in contact with Britt

In case you have more questions regarding the ‘Beweeg me te leren’-project mail me, and then I’ll try to be the intermediate link between you and the creators. If you have others questions, please don’t hesitate to mail me as well. And I’ll try my best to sufficiently answer !

Britt Hoofwijk, 1735403hoofwijk@zuyd.nl

References

  • van den Houten, J., Jansens, R., Crutzen, R., & van de Bool, E., Dibbets. (2018). Handboek: Beweeg me te leren. Beweeg Me Te Leren. Geraadpleegd van https://www.beweegmeteleren.nl/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Handboek-Beweeg-me-te-Leren19juli2016.pdf
  • Westendorp, M. (2014). Movement and cognition; The relationship between gross motor skills, executive functioning, and academic achiement in children with learning disorders. Proefschrift RU Groningen. Geraadpleegd van https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/files/12588097/20140526_Thesis_Westendorp.pdf
  • Käll, L. B., Nilsson, M., & Lindén, T. (2014). The Impact of a Physical Activity Intervention Program on Academic Achievement in a Swedish Elementary School Setting. Journal of School Health, 84(8). https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12179
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