Coinciding with Father's Day, the Government of the Republic of Zambia, UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation launch campaign to highlight the benefits of play for children in Zambia

21 June 2020
Zambian man plays with daughter

(Ministry of Health, LUSAKA, 21 June 2020) 

In the spirit of Father’s Day, the Ministry of Health in partnership with Ministry of General Education and Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, with support from UNICEF and the LEGO Foundation, is launching a national campaign entitled: “I play, I learn, I thrive”. The campaign is intended to spread awareness about the importance of play for young children.

The Significance of Play in a Child's Development

During the first few years of life, a child’s brain develops at a rate of more than one million new neural connections every second. This is a once in a lifetime occurrence. Children who receive nurturing care and the stimulation of play, including interactions with parents and caregivers, develop quicker and grow healthier, in addition to thriving better in school and later in life.

For children to feel secure, they must be shown love and affection. Even babies that are too young to understand what adults say to them in words, can understand love and rejection, joy and sorrow in the parent or caregiver’s tone of voice, body language, actions and gestures. Parents/caregivers can express love and affection to the child in different ways; hugging, cuddling, smiling and laughing together, tickling, massaging, gestures, and vocalisation.

During this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, children are spending more time at home. We thus encourage fathers, mothers and other caregivers to be interacting with their children to enable them to develop in a healthy way.

Development of Children in the context of Zambian Proverbs

The Playful Parenting campaign, launched today in Zambia, will highlight local proverbs that encourage nurturing care towards children. These Zambian proverbs including ‘Imiti ikula empanga’ (Bemba), ‘Ng’ombe ni matole’ (Nyanja) and ‘Mabiya afwida kumubumbi’ (Tonga) will be used on billboards across 20 cities and towns in Zambia, as well as on social media.

The early years offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape a child’s ability to learn, grow and contribute meaningfully to society. Parents, including fathers, guardians and other caregivers are the main providers of the nutrition, stimulation, love and protection that every baby needs to build the brain’s architecture.

Young children need acknowledgement and encouragement to develop confidence in themselves. Children should be encouraged when they achieve a new goal or are trying out something new.  Praise motivates them to explore more and exploration is in turn good for brain development. Fathers and mothers need to be aware that they can negatively influence or lower children’s motivation to explore if the child’s efforts are not recognised.

Children’s confidence is built when their parents and caregivers respond positively to their actions. They perform significantly better when they are praised and given gentle feedback and explanations about what was good about their actions and why such a deed was commendable. Praise that is specific and acknowledges the processes of completing an activity or solving a problem helps develop children’s learning and motivation.

Leveraging On The Synergy of Collaborative Efforts

The campaign, which is supported by the LEGO Foundation as part of a wider partnership to boost Early Childhood Development and playful parenting in Zambia, has been developed with the Zambian Early Childhood Development Action Network (ZECDAN) which brings together government ministries, cooperating partners, UN agencies and NGOs working in the sector.

Using a multi-disciplinary one government approach, the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ministry of General Education as well as the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, takes pleasure in collaborating with UNICEF – a global organisation dedicated to promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, across 190 countries and territories.

Together the synergy of our efforts look to benefit the next generations of Zambians as they play, learn and thrive.

Dr. Abel Kabalo


Media contacts

John James
Chief of Communication
Tel: +260 977 300 636


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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