Scaling-Up Playful Parenting 

Parents and primary caregivers have an important role to play in their children’s development. Their responsive caregiving sets a critical trajectory for brain growth in young children, which lays a solid foundation for healthy development and lifelong learning. Evidence from a range of countries shows that when caregivers engage in quality play and reading with their children, it can result in improved learning outcomes that persist throughout the life course.  

On October 29th, 2019, the LEGO Foundation announced a new partnership with UNICEF to scale parenting interventions that promote playful interactions, increase global knowledge and buy-in for playful parenting programs, and bolster primary caregivers’ demand for playful learning during the early years. This partnership aligns with the Foundation’s 2019 commitment which pledged to bring to scale impactful programs that support parents and caregivers to strengthen their children’s development through play. While ample evidence confirms the benefits of Playful Parenting programs, such efforts have rarely expanded beyond the local level. The LEGO Foundation, by way of its Playful Parenting initiative, is investing in bringing programs to scale and developing learning to help ensure sustainability and continued expansion.  

“Stimulating experiences and interactions such as play, and early learning are critical to healthy brain development in babies and young children,” said Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Chief of Early Childhood Development. “We are excited to build on our partnership with the LEGO Foundation to help increase understanding of the benefits of playful and responsive parenting, and advocate for better policies to support healthy brain development in early childhood.” 

Through this partnership with the LEGO Foundation (2019-2024), UNICEF advances its work on Playful Parenting across three overarching areas:

  • in-depth country-level work in Zambia and Serbia;
  • advocacy and communication;
  • global and regional knowledge generation and exchange, dissemination and uptake of relevant information.

UNICEF scales-up quality services for young children and families, including strengthening counseling/support for caregivers’ and parents’ so they can engage in playful parenting and provide nurturing care to their young children in Zambia and Serbia. Validated approaches such as Care for Child Development (CCD) will be used, building on existing  delivery  platforms, across relevant ministries, reaching over 100,000 families.

UNICEF also increases awareness and visibility among the general public on the value of Learning through Play in early childhood through advocacy and communication channels, with a specific focus on equipping and empowering caregivers to promote children’s development through Playful Parenting, building on UNICEF’s #EarlyMomentsMatter Campaign at global and national levels.

Besides, this program helps to fill knowledge gaps about how effective parenting strategies incorporate play  and  increase  access  to, dissemination, and uptake of  this  information. This will be achieved by  supporting  ECD  networks and producing seminal evidence and global goods for policy makers, implementing organizations and other key  stakeholders.

UNICEF is partnering with three ECD networks -  the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN), the Africa Early Childhood Network (AfECN), and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) to engage in collaborative knowledge exchange and learning on Playful Parenting programs. UNICEF is also partnering with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to provide country-level technical support through the establishment of an ECD Professional Development Hub. These partnerships will help strengthen the ECD global and regional landscape, and will in turn increase the impact and reach of the UNICEF-LEGO Foundation Playful Parenting Program’s interventions.

This joint initiative will play an important role in ensuring that playful parenting interventions translate into significant and lasting benefits for the children, families and their communities.  




Caring for the Caregivers: Implementer's Guide | UNICEF

UNICEF’s Vision for Elevating Parenting | UNICEF

What we mean by: Playful Parenting in the early years | The LEGO Foundation 

Evidence Brief – Parents, Play, and Emotional Wellbeing | University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education

Playful Parenting Activity Booklet | World Vision International

Learning through play | UNICEF

1-2-3 Care Toolkit | Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD)

The Bebbo app – Your partner in parenthood | UNICEF

Parenting on the Move: Supporting parents in situations of migration |  CIP-Center for Interactive Pedagogy

Self-care for parents | UNICEF

#NoMatterWhat: Supporting Caregivers as First Responders in Crisis | Global Initiative to Support Parents

Five reasons playful parenting lasts a lifetime | The LEGO Foundation

Step-by-step through parenting in the first 1000 days | UNICEF

Play helps parents achieve their goals together | UNICEF

Working with the Workforce: How New Research Informs Support of the Playful Parenting Workforce | ECDAN

How to prepare your child for a lifetime of positive mental health: 0-5 years | UNICEF

Playtime, anytime! | UNICEF

UNICEF Parenting Hub | UNICEF

Play activities caregivers can try for children with disabilities | UNICEF

The Brain Architects Podcast: Building Resilience Through Play | Harvard Center on the Developing Child


Supportive ‘’Orbit(s)’’ Around Family Playful Parenting

Caring for Caregivers. A Path Towards Playful Parenting

The Role of Parenting Support Programs in Promoting and Sustaining Playful Parenting

Virtual cross-country learning exchange on the implementation of playful parenting programmes

Thematic Meeting: the power of Playful Parenting in emergency situations