A muppet reads a story to children

Learning Through Play

Learning Through Play

Growing children need to play. It’s one of the most important ways they learn. From birth to age six, young brains develop at their most rapid pace—and evidence shows that infants and children are constantly learning, connecting, and engaging with their world through positive playful experiences.

Playful learning is a powerhouse—boosting cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. Plus, it lays the foundation for children to become creative and engaged learners for life.

The Power of Partnership

Play is central to childhood around the world, but often parents and caregivers are unaware of its benefits. Since 2015, Sesame Workshop has partnered with the LEGO Foundation to combine our proven content creation and media expertise with the LEGO Foundation’s commitment to and experience with learning through play. Together, we tailor programs across cultures, teaching grownups how play helps children learn and grow—while helping them guide play in meaningful ways.

Through initiatives like Play Well & Be Happy in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and Play Every Day in South Africa, Mexico, and India, we’ve brought entertaining and educational media—plus joyful play experiences—to children and caregivers, giving them tools to transform everyday moments into playful learning experiences and helping to set children on the right path for life.

Now, powered by the LEGO Foundation’s audacious $100 million investment, we are expanding our reach to bring play-based learning to millions of children impacted by displacement.

Building Blocks of Early Childhood Development

The scope of the international refugee crisis is staggering: tens of millions of children are displaced worldwide. Because affected children typically have few opportunities to play, a crucial pathway to early learning can be disrupted. So, Sesame Workshop and the LEGO Foundation will support millions of children and caregivers impacted by the Rohingya and Syrian refugee crises, ensuring their access to play-based educational tools that can help them overcome adversity and thrive.

Working with BRAC (the world’s largest international development NGO) in Bangladesh and the International Rescue Committee in the Syrian response region, we’ll reach displaced children as well as those in host communities with quality early education and learning-through-play opportunities delivered through both mass media and direct services.

In Bangladesh, we’ll scale BRAC’s network of Humanitarian Play Labs, incorporating fun and engaging Sesame videos, storybooks, games, puzzles, and more. In the Syrian response region, where Sesame Workshop and the IRC are already implementing a massive MacArthur Foundation-funded early childhood intervention, we’ll deepen the program’s play-based learning aspects. And, because playful interactions between children and caring adults are critical for fostering social-emotional growth, we’ll guide caregivers within both areas in those nurturing interactions and give them the resources they need to actively support their children’s development.

Harnessing the power of the beloved Sesame Street Muppets, we’ll create new play-focused videos for family-friendly mobile and pop-up viewings. We’ll also adapt content from Sisimpur, the Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street, and Ahlan Simsim, the all-new Arabic language Sesame Street currently in production, to meet the unique needs of refugee and host community children.

And, by designing a scalable, replicable program, we hope to transform the humanitarian sector’s approach to early childhood development, establishing play-based learning as a crucial way to support children affected by conflict.

The Power of Play, Proven

As with all of our initiatives, research is key. Through formative research embedded into each phase, we improve our activities and materials so that caregivers and children find them appealing, relatable, and easy to include in their daily lives.

Summative research helps us evaluate our effectiveness. Play Every Day has already been proven to help caregivers understand play’s educational value and increase their willingness to be silly with children at playtime. In South Africa, caregivers increased frequency of play by 15% as compared to the previous week, with increases of 23% in India and 3% in Mexico.

There is little research about what sorts of play-based early childhood interventions work in humanitarian contexts. That’s why we’re working with our independent evaluation partners at NYU’s Global TIES for Children to develop, test, and refine the best learning-through-play models. Our research will help double the existing evidence base on what early education programs are most effective in crisis settings—and we’ll share our findings to inform global best practices around learning through play, helping to ensure children can benefit across the world.

Support Provided By

Big Bird and little girl hugging on a playground

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