Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs reduce inequality and break the cycle of poverty. This is how BLOOM’s programs support the critical work in ECD for the disadvantaged institutionalized orphan population:

A dedicated space to learn and grow.

BLOOM’s Magical PlayGardens campaign provides orphan children with a dedicated space that supports, encourages and prioritizes their learning and growth. BLOOM’s Magical PlayGardens are healing, sensory gardens and play spaces in orphanages that are rich with supplies, educational toys and opportunities to learn-through-play. The Magical PlayGardens give the orphan children a space to be curious, create, collaborate and explore freely. BLOOM also trains the orphanage staff on the importance of creating positive learning experiences, language they should use to encourage the children and promote their confidence, and how learn-through-play activities can be incorporated into daily routines at the orphanage.

Improving Cognitive Development.

BLOOM’s ECD programs improve the orphan child’s ability to learn and solve problems. BLOOM supports the mental processes needed to think, make sense of the world, and understand knowledge across different subjects, including mathematics, science, and social studies. For example, in BLOOM’s Magical PlayGarden: o A two-month-old baby explores the environment with their hands and eyes, coos in response to various sounds, and develops through sensory stimulation of touch, sight, smell and hearing. The multitude of sensory exposures in nature helps this process. o A five-year-old learns to do simple math problems while sharing blocks, or discovers how to engineer the tallest Lego tower. o A young child freely expresses ideas and feelings about an art project- these communications help staff identify an area of weakness in the child and determine what support might be given to overcome that weakness. o A child builds executive functioning skills as they pay attention, persist, and direct while playing various games such as tag, hopscotch, dancing, catching bubbles, playing an instrument, etc.

Improving Social and Emotional Development.

BLOOM’s ECD programs improve the child's ability to interact with others, including helping themselves and self-control. It builds a child’s ability to express and regulate feelings and develop relations with others. For example, in BLOOM’s Magical PlayGarden: When given access to the outdoor play space, a 6-month-old reacts to the sensory stimulation of sunlight, grass, and a breeze; a ten-month-old learns to wave good-bye; a five-year-old learns how to take turns with friends and self-regulate his emotions. Children develop depth in their friendships and have free-play interactions, which promotes social development. They may overcome shyness and mingle with others, or overcome aggression and learn to cooperate to achieve a goal. o Hands-on experiences in the healing gardens develops a child’s positive self-esteem, love for learning and mutual respect for others and nature. o A child loses in a race or gets minor bruises, but learns resilience and how to cope with greater challenges in life.

Improving Language and Early Literacy Skills.

BLOOM’s ECD programs build the child’s verbal language and prepare them for future reading and writing skills. This involves exposing children to letters, sounds, vocabulary, and story telling. For example, in BLOOM’s Magical PlayGarden: An adult reader engages the children through story telling and an interactive dialog about pictures and events in the story, the children predict what might happen next and retell the story by acting it out. Children develop language and negotiation skills when interacting and collaborating in play and activities. Children learn initial concepts of reading through letters and sound games incorporated into the playground design, toys, etc. Children enjoy a small library of books and get exposure to ‘initial concepts of print’, which include understanding that written words communicate a message, and that pictures can illustrate a story.

Improving Physical Strength and Motor Skills.

BLOOM’s ECD programs develop the child’s strength of body, stamina, and ability to control their movements involving large- and small- muscles. Motor skills development strengthens muscles and integrates them with nerve and brain function - it helps develop the body and tone the brain. For example, in BLOOM’s Magical PlayGarden: o The child goes from a confined, tight space with limited access to natural light to fresh air and open space. The Magical PlayGarden allows them to run, jump, climb, swing, crawl, sweat and increase their heart rate. o The children develop fine motor skills by using their hands and fingers to assemble Legos, hold a spoon, turn pages in a book, or use a crayon to draw. o The children develop gross motor skills when a 12-month-old baby learns to pull up to a standing position by holding onto furniture; a five-year-old learns to balance on one leg, skip, climb, dance, tumble, jump, run, etc.

Improving school readiness.

BLOOM’s ECD programs will invest in the toddler years, allowing the orphan children to enter the public school system at a closer level to their peers. BLOOM’s work targets the cognitive, emotional, and resource limitations faced when growing up in an orphanage setting. Investing in ECD yields better human development outcomes. Investments in ECD programs not only influence the individuals’ personal, social and professional development but also determine the whole country’s growth prospects. BLOOM’s ECD programs develop the orphan’s foundational skills and return improved educational outcomes and economic prospects.