LEGO Foundation: Learning through play
UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation engages with parents and caregivers to use the power of learning through play to give children the best possible start in life.
Children play to have fun, relax and develop the skills that are needed later in life for creativity, mathematics, science, language and problem solving.
UNICEF partnered with the LEGO Foundation to support parents and caregivers—the key architects of a child’s early environment— as well as early learning programmes to use the power of play to lay the foundations for lifelong learning.
Our shared commitment
UNICEF, the LEGO Foundation and the government have been empowering children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners through play since 2015. Through our influence, reach and investment, we seek to embed play in classrooms, households and communities around the world, creating an environment that allows children to develop to their full potential, including the academic and life skills needed to thrive in the 21st century.
The LEGO Foundation and UNICEF share a deep commitment to improving children’s lives. Working with governments, policy makers, teachers, parents and caregivers around the world, we seek to embed the play journey in every household and classroom to support all children’s academic, social and emotional needs.
Our work in South Africa
South Africa, where early childhood development (ECD) is a top priority for both UNICEF and the Government was the first country in which this global partnership was launched. The LEGO Foundation supports UNICEF programmes to strengthen implementation of learning through play in early learning programmes and the foundation phase of basic education.
These programmes target parents and caregivers, early childhood development programmes, ECD practitioners and educators, administrators as well as higher education institutions - supporting the Government on policy, curricula and programme related matters.
The partnership focuses on developing the capacity and understanding of parents about the value of play in the early years and how they can support the growth, development and early learning of their children through play.
We engage with the Department of Basic Education, Department of Social Development and other relevant Ministries as key entry points. Together with the Department of Basic Education focus is on enhancing the skills and knowledge on learning through play through extensive in-service training programmes across the country.
We work to promote the Children’s Rights and Business Principles – a comprehensive set of principles to guide companies on the full range of actions they can take in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children’s rights.
Additionally, we seek to fill knowledge gaps about the importance of learning through play and to increase access to this information by supporting knowledge networks and exchanges, convening stakeholders - including ECD professionals, educators, academics, civil society and policymakers - and producing sound evidence and international advocacy.
Why learning through play?
- Play is a child’s right, but it is also a critical form of stimulation that boosts children’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. Play-based learning helps children become collaborative, creative and curious – essential abilities for life and work in the 21st century.
- Children are naturally motivated to play, which makes it fertile ground for learning and developing new skills. During play, children can take charge, making choices about what they do and how they do it. Play can be a highly social activity, allowing for opportunities to learn from and about others.
- Success in tomorrow’s world will be built on a new mixture of academic knowledge – in science or the arts for example – and character-based/life skills – such as communication, creativity and problem-solving. It is crucial for children and adults to remain adaptable and resilient in our changing world.
- Play, as a means to promote optimal child development, is important for all children, especially those living in poverty or affected by crises who may lack access to safe, playful experiences. Play provides comfort to children and can help them establish routine, regain a sense of normalcy and build resilience.
What we’re doing in play
- The overall goal of our work is to integrate learning through play throughout a child’s development and education, facilitating quality learning and skills for a changing world. We continue to train practitioners and educators in ECD programmes and the foundation phase classes in schools on learning through play, aiming to redefine the meaning of teaching and learning in the period from birth to nine years old.
- Through capacity building and evidence generation, we are working with the Department of Basic Education to embed learning through play in the national education system.
- Recognizing play as an important means to help children affected by adverse experiences, we collaborate on ensuring that parents and programme implementers know how play can assist in providing psycho-social support.
What we've already done in play
Since 2015, we have made significant strides towards embedding learning through play at the policy level while addressing critical issues that support children’s well-being and ability to play safely.
- Thanks to this partnership and collaboration with Government the use of play-based learning in ECD programmes and classrooms is supported in the curricula. More than 220,000 ECD practitioners and educators completed the free accredited P.L.A.Y. online in-service training programme on learning through play.
- Almost 18,000 parents (2017-2019) of young children across the country participated in the National Parental/Primary Caregiver Capacity-Building Training Programme (for children birth to 5 years) with the Department of Social Development and National Early Childhood Development Alliance.
- We collaborated on the #EarlyMomentsMatter campaign to raise awareness about the importance of nutrition, protection and stimulation through play, for healthy brain development in the earliest years of life, and to support parents and caregivers to give their children the best start in life.
- We have also advocated for play. The Department of Basic Education, with the support of UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation, have worked to promote the importance of learning through play through critical-thinking forums, advocacy and communication campaigns, and national conferences from 2016 through 2018. In 2019, the Department of Basic Education, in partnership with UNICEF, the LEGO Foundation and ADEA, hosted the first-ever Africa Conference on Play, bringing together stakeholders from across the continent.
The mission is urgent. We know that to survive, thrive and meet the challenges of tomorrow, children need more play today. The skills they will need, the people they will become and the kind of world they will make together depends on it.
So, let’s play!
About the LEGO Foundation
At the LEGO Foundation we believe in the power of play for children’s healthy development. Children thrive on play. It’s also perfect practice for tomorrow.
Given the chance to think, collaborate, adapt to new rules and try again when things don’t go to plan, children develop essential skills that will last a lifetime. And play is open for all, no matter background or ability. We have worked with our partners for more than a decade in South Africa to bring learning through play to millions of children in the country. We have invested in projects that work with parents, caregivers, social workers, early childhood programmes, teachers, schools and policy makers; all with the aim to improve the overall quality of education. Because every moment of play is a moment to learn.
Click on the banner below for The Playlist - a collection of fun learning games for kids & their families.