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How Banard's Playful Parenting Empowers His Daughters

Banard - Uganda - Hero Image

Banard and his family gather in a grassy clearing near their home in Isingiro, Uganda.

He and his wife, Jasca, each hold one end of a rope, swinging it round and round. Their daughters Prossy, 8, and Anabelle, 5, jump joyfully between them, counting aloud with each skip over the sweeping cord. As they practice their jumping, timing, and teamwork and push their counting skills to new heights, Mom and Dad stand by, encouraging the two girls to add up their successes.

This is one of many games the family now enjoys weekly. Banard, in particular, has made playing with his children central to his daily routine.

But things weren’t always this way. Not long ago, the girls feared their father. He was strict on discipline and seemed like a stranger to them. After learning playful parenting skills from Right To Play, Banard has strengthened his relationship with his children and set them on a path for success in school and in life.

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Banard, Jasca, and Prossy, 8, play a game led by Anabelle, 5. She sings a song of her choice while the family claps along, matching the rhythm. Whoever keeps the beat without making a mistake is the winner. This seemingly simple activity develops focus and coordination, motor skills, pattern recognition, and other rhythmic concepts.

Parenting with Punishment

In Uganda, parenting roles are heavily influenced by gender norms. Women are primarily responsible for child-rearing, while men are viewed as providers and authority figures. Traditional parenting also relies heavily on punishment to shape children’s behaviour, and fathers often act primarily as disciplinarians.

“Before, when one of my children made a mistake, I would react immediately with a punishment. I did not give them a chance to explain themselves,” Banard says. “They came to fear making a mistake and would run away and hide, afraid of the punishment to follow.”

Supportive and nurturing child-parent relationships are critical to child development and academic success. Parents who communicate openly and build trust create an environment where socio-emotional development can thrive. Through play, parents can harness a child’s natural impulse for fun to teach skills, such as self-expression, focus and cooperation, and prepare them for school with games focused on academic skills, like learning numbers and letters. Research indicates that parental involvement in a child’s life positively correlates to better educational outcomes.

“My children and I have bonded through play. I encourage their efforts in all they do at home … I have also been able to teach them literacy and numeracy using different play materials.” – Banard

For Prossy and Anabelle, opportunities for at-home learning go a long way.

Despite Uganda's strides towards achieving universal access to basic education, a lack of properly resourced schools means that many students do not achieve minimum levels of literacy and numeracy at school alone.

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Banard’s daughters Anabelle and Prossy are learning through play, building skills like how to count, sort items, and recognize colours. They’re reinforcing lessons learned at school and finding joy along the way.

From Punishment to Play

Banard’s journey from distant disciplinarian to fun-loving father began when he was one of 30 parents selected from his community to participate in Play to Grow. The program empowers parents and caregivers of young children aged three to six to support their children’s socio-emotional skills, literacy, and numeracy through play.

In Uganda, community members, including teachers and healthcare workers, are trained as Parent Educators. They conduct small group sessions with parents to teach key responsive parenting skills and foster peer discussion and support. They also conduct home visits to help parents implement what they’ve learned.

Banard attended biweekly sessions that taught skills like how parents can let their children lead in play, reflect what their children are feeling in order to validate and normalize emotions, set limits, encourage efforts, and integrate literacy and numeracy into everyday activities like the jump rope game.

“My children have learned a lot through play, like how to count, read, tell stories, sort items, and recognize and name different colours. This adds to what they learn at school, and now they perform far better than they used to.” – Banard

In Isingiro, 85% of parents report engaging in six or more playful activities with their children weekly. After six months of playing with their children, 46% of parents noticed their children exhibit socio-emotional skills and good behaviour, compared to only 21% of parents at the start of the project.

“What I have witnessed with the Play to Grow project is that parents are involved, and they appreciate the importance of playing with their children,” says Sarah Arinda, the District Inspector of Schools. “This is not just Right To Play’s achievement; it’s an achievement for the district and government.”

With Prossy in primary school and Anabelle enrolled in pre-school, Banard’s focus on helping them learn and regularly practice basic academic skills means both girls receive early and extra emphasis on their education at home, better preparing them for the classroom.

How the Power of Play Benefits Banard, His Children, and His Community 

Banard knows that play has not only strengthened his daughters’ performance at school, but also enriched the joyful bond they share.

“We live a very happy life now,” says Banard. “Now, I give my children undivided attention when it is our time to play, and I encourage all their efforts. This is a very big change for me – to go from stranger, judge, and head of punishments to a trusted friend and confidant.”

A closer parent-child bond has made Banard more attuned to his daughters’ emotions. He helps them manage their feelings rather than resorting to discipline. As a result, the children have gone from throwing tantrums and fighting with each other to proudly taking responsibility for their chores, respecting limits, and supporting each other.

Jasca has seen a change too. “The children are happy now,” she says. “They are free to express themselves and they want to share stories with Banard about their day. They now trust and believe in their father as a friend and teacher.”

Banard says he loves to play house with Prossy and Anabelle. The girls take turns role-playing as mother and father, and he acts as the child. They cook imaginary meals and explore different chores together. The game gives Banard and his wife insight into how their daughters see them as parents.

Jasca’s favourite family game is dodgeball – with a twist. In her version, the player in the middle, who is trying to avoid being hit by the ball, adds up every dodge out loud. She likes it because it gives her a chance to practice counting with her daughters.

“Our father has changed. Now, every day, we have time to play with him. We learn things like how to count and multiply, and then it becomes easier to learn in school.” – Prossy, 8

So far in Uganda, Play to Grow has reached 10,687 children through 1,223 parents and caregivers trained by 82 Parent Educators. That impact will grow exponentially through the indirect reach of parents like Banard.

Not only has he brought the skills he learned home to share with his wife, but he has also become an educator and advocate for the importance of play, sharing what he’s learned with his neighbours and the wider community.

The response has been very positive – both towards his leadership and within himself.

“This [parenting support] is something we were lacking in the community, and I am grateful that Right To Play is working in our district,” he says. “Now, I am looked to as a role model.”

Banard knows that his commitment to play will only deepen.

“Playtime with my children has become my biggest stress reliever,” he says. “The impact that I have seen so far in my home encourages me to be a better father.”

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Banard is committed to play at home and in his community. He shares playful parenting tips with parents in his neighbourhood.

The Play to Grow project is made possible thanks to the support of the LEGO Foundation.

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