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27 Jan, Friday
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Montreal Families

Program teaches kids to play fair

Children often play and attend school with youngsters whose families come from other countries with different cultures and religions. Learning to negotiate differences and communicate in a respectful way are important skills for young people to develop. To help them with these skills, Equitas (a social justice organization) has created a program called Play It Fair! in which approximately 60 games are used to teach children ages 6-12 values such as cooperation, respect, fairness, inclusion, respect for diversity, responsibility and acceptance.

The program is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has been used in more than 150 day camps and after-school programs in Montreal. For example, the Dawson Community Centre in Verdun began using the program four years ago at its summer camps. A year later, it was introduced it in the after-school programs. The staff credits Play It Fair! with a significant improvement in how children treat each other.

“We’re seeing kids quickly comprehend the notion that we share the same feelings,” says Heidi Wagar, coordinator of Dawson’s youth programs. That knowledge helps children treat others in a more respectful way and to think about how their actions affect others, she adds.

Wagar says the program works because it emphasizes showing, explaining and discussing, rather than lecturing. Through games, children become engaged in thinking about basic rights and responsibilities. For example, a game called “inclusion by numbers,” requires kids to gather in a group that has either even or odd numbers. That means that at some point, a participant will be left out. From there, the children are asked to talk about how they feel when excluded from a group.

The Play It Fair! toolkit, which includes games and questions to promote discussion, is available by calling (514) 954-0382.

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