In the #1 bestseller, Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, author Robert Fulghum lists the social life lessons he first learned when he was in preschool:
- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don’t hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.
- Live a balanced life. Learn a little, think a little, draw a little, paint a little, sing and dance and play and work a little.
Introducing: The Social Yard
Last week, Israel’s first ever Social Yard (Ha'hatzer Ha'hevrati), a unique social playground, was inaugurated at the WIZO Beit Morecki Day Care Center in Shkhunat Hatikva, a working class neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv. The aim of the Social Yard is to enable the children of Beit Morecki to enjoy activities outside the classroom, as they learn social interaction skills and get to know each other in a beautiful place that suits their specific needs. This specially designed playground, which encourages social interaction and cooperation between children during playtime, includes a double-slide where children go down it side-by-side.
Generously donated by Dr. Ada Becker, an expert in the field of social development of young children, the new Social Yard is named in memory of Becker’s late father, Shimon Shershevsky, who for nearly 40 years ran WIZO’s legendary "Mother & Child Center" in Tel Aviv, a facility that cared for thousands of children throughout its existence.
Left to right: World WIZO Chairperson, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Dr. Ada Becker and Chairperson of WIZO's Early Age Division, Avital Blumenthal, with the Social Yard dedication plaque.
According to Dr. Becker, who is also the author of a book in Hebrew entitled How to Raise a Sociable Child, the early years of child's life are the most critical. "A child’s first years of life are years of early and accelerated social learning,” Dr. Becker said. “During these years, young children acquire the main social skills that will serve them in the present and in the future. The Social Yard is the main place where children can combine sensory motor and cognitive language activity with extensive social activity.”
Teaching Social Skills in an Age of Screens
“WIZO initiates projects that meet an existing need and adjusts its services to the current reality,” said Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO, at the festive opening of the Social Yard. "This project is particularly important and relevant today because it teaches children to be sociable in an age of computer screens, tablets, and mobile phones. This is the main goal of the Social Yard, to instill social skills in early childhood.”
“In the Social Yard children learn to listen, to cooperate, to wait in line, to initiate, to concede to others, to think about their own needs and how to satisfy them,” Dr. Becker said. “They also learn to listen to and respond to the needs of others and to show empathy for others. Of course, in the social Yard they also have the opportunity to jump, rest, measure strength and abilities and much more.”
Beit Morecki: Providing Equal Opportunities for Children
Beit Morecki is a multi-purpose facility that provides services for children from three months old to six years of age. Over half the children who come to the Beit Morecki are referred to WIZO by Israel’s Ministry of Welfare. Many of the children who come to the center struggle with developmental delays in motor skills, language, as well as emotional problems. Currently there are 81 children in total at the center. The older group of children, a class of 34, is who the Social Yard is geared for.
The center provides the children with a warm and supportive environment, giving them the optimal education along with assistance and treatment of the many problems they deal with. The center also helps parents from low socio-economic sectors who face many difficulties in their lives, both economically and emotionally by providing training and support in their parenting. The facility also has an ecological garden that serves as a learning tool and is also used in the treatment of children with emotional difficulties.
“Equal opportunities in education allow each child, regardless of origin and economic status, to come to life equipped with appropriate tools and achieve achievements,” Prof. Lazovsky said. “WIZO's day care centers are not simply a place where parents receive babysitting services. WIZO day dare centers, and especially this day care center, are the most important foundation for children's lives.” The activity in the Social Yard will enable these children to overcome the social difficulties they experience, provide them with an opportunity to be confident and help them develop as children who will be able to cope with various challenges throughout their lives.
“Young children need to be in contact with and feel all the natural world has to offer,” Dr. Becker said. “Things we adults take for granted like soil, air, plants, trees, animals, stones, insects, flowers, fruits and more. The Social Yard enables young children to touch, breathe, improvise, caress, sit, roll, pick, plant, look, discover and so much more.”