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This section of the toolkit provides an explanation of how the magic bags were designed, compiled and distributed in the case countries, as well as recommendations and case studies to help roll-out the magic bags in other contexts. The ‘magic bags’ are a collection of toys, books and other play resources used to promote distanced playful parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to select the contents of the magic bags in all three countries, the technical team first came up with a list of toys for children aged 0-3 and 3-5. The toys were divided into development areas or purpose, and examples of what the toys looked like and how they could be used were provided. A priority level was also assigned to each toy based on their purpose and effectiveness in use with caregivers and children. This list of toys was also shared with the Inclusion & Equity hub of Save the Children’s Early Learning Technical Working Group, where the members reviewed the toys to ensure that inclusive play materials were prioritized. Country teams then used the lists to determine which toys to include in their magic bags, taking into consideration which toys would be available and appropriate in their contexts.
In Bhutan, the magic bags were focused for children aged 0-3, and therefore focused on providing safe, durable, and clean play materials for young babies. Each bag included a cloth fruit and vegetable book, a set of cloth stacking rings of various sizes and colors, a set of fabric shapes, a set of fabric animals, and a series of black-and-white pictures cards. In Bhutan, there was limited availability of age-appropriate materials for young children and babies. The program team decided to work with two local organizations to create the materials, namely RENEW, an organization that supports the empowerment of women and children in Bhutan and focused on supporting survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Save the Children also worked with DRAGSTHO, an organization of people with special needs in Bhutan. After creating fabric models, they trained individuals on how to create the magic bag toys using machine and hand sewing. Each organization focused on delivering a particular set of materials. The process took longer than a simple procurement, and was further complicated by supply-chain issues as the required raw materials had to be imported from abroad. However, having the hand-made component added an additional sustainability component as the trained individuals retained the skillsets they gained throughout the project and could help later on with internal supply of this type of good. The bags were then delivered to caregivers of children aged 0-3 in COVID-19 effected districts. This included Thimpu, the capital, and a through-point to access much of the rest of the country, as well as temporary housing colonies in border-districts in the south who previously had moved regularly between borders, but now were re-settled in Bhutan during COVID-19. The team also distributed magic bags to health centers implementing ECCD group sessions for children aged 0-3 in 5 districts across the country.In Nepal, the magic bags were developed for and distributed to children aged 3-5. The bags contained both play and reading materials: 10 story books and 11 different play materials were selected for inclusion in the magic bag, as well as the magic bag guide with tips for parents. Half of the storybooks were printed in Nepali, and the other half in Maithili, to support the development and early literacy of both languages. The storybooks had been previously developed by the Save the Children Nepal team on a previous project, and were specifically selected to be age-appropriate and foster learning at home. Play materials included a simple board game, a dust-free slate, alphabet, number and color cards, a sorting container with color counters, a number dice, art materials, stationaries, and a ball. These items were chosen to support a wide-range of developmental domains of children aged 3-5. Many of the materials were not available in the local market in Nepal, and needed to be imported from neighboring countries, which was particularly difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Bangladesh, the team compiled two separate magic bags for children aged 0-3 and 4-5. A list of the materials included in the bags for each age range is included below in Table 1. Many of the items on the larger Magic Bag Wishlist developed by the technical team were not available locally, and so the team resorted to a variety of solutions to source the relevant materials. First, suppliers were not accustomed to supplying these types and materials and so the Bangladesh team provided additional written support to the suppliers to help them offer the most relevant materials for children in the age ranges, as well as quality and spot checks to ensure that the sample materials were correct and the bulk materials corresponded to the samples. Second, there were some materials previously developed by the Shishuder Jonno (SJ) program, from which the project team took the opportunity to adapt some materials and work with existing suppliers. Moreover, the team also looked for other existing education projects to adapt the content and materials. Lastly, the cloth book was a new item in the country but it was deemed very high priority to include, so the Bangladesh team invested in drafting and finalizing the cloth book through consultation with SCI international experts and by preparing a sample. The Bangladesh team implemented a rigorous quality assurance process as so many of the materials were being procured or produced for the first time.
In addition to providing the materials in the bag, each team also created a guide book to accompany their magic bag items. The guide book explains the items in the bag and provides some examples of games that caregivers can play with their children using the items. In each country, the team provided a brief demonstration to caregivers on the items and associated games before distributing the bags. In Bangladesh, the team created two guides for the relevant age ranges, as they were the only team to distribute to caregivers of both age ranges. In addition, they Bangladesh team included parenting tips and guidance focusing on children’s mental health during the COVID-19, including tips and guidance with clear explanation so that parents could engage in some specific activities with their child to promote their mental wellbeing.
Based off the experience of the country teams who have developed, distributed, and monitored the use of the magic bags during COVID-19, the following recommendations are offered to support future teams who may wish to use the magic bag approach:
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