Many of you will be familiar with LEGO's plastic bricks and the toys they make. Perhaps like me you played with them as a child and your children now spend hours building the amazing worlds that LEGO now makes. Perhaps you have stepped on those pesky little bricks while saying goodnight to your children. Perhaps you use the bricks in your schools or therapy clinics. Whatever your experience, most of us have heard of LEGO. It's the biggest toy company in the world.
But fewer people know that the company is still family owned, and most importantly 25% of its profits go into a Foundation that supports children learn through play. No doubt this is a nice marketing tool. But it's much more than that. Having worked with the LEGO Foundation community over the last few years, I have been inspired by their commitment to a cause I hold very dear – ensuring ALL children have the opportunity to play.
The LEGO Foundation funds research into play at Harvard and Cambridge Universities. It brings leading play practitioners together every year at its IDEAS conference in Denmark where I have joined them a couple of times and become more aware of the importance of building a cutting-edge global community to champion the importance of play. It also funds initiatives in refugee camps and developing countries to ensure some of the world’s most vulnerable children have playful opportunities. LEGO is a company with a heart, and one I have had great pleasure collaborating with in its commitment to play.
Its next initiative is to look at how to enhance play opportunities for children with special needs. Last year LEGO launched braille bricks, and I'm looking forward to more ideas on play for children who learn differently being developed and promoted.
Those of you who read the latest article on Developmental Play will also have seen that LEGO is part of the Real Play Coalition which championed play at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2018. And this is where the collaboration of CreateCATT and the LEGO Foundation comes in. In 2017 a community called PlayFutures set up by the LEGO Foundation bought together small groups of global experts to take part in explorations around play to synthesise and promote best practice.
Caroline Essame joins the Playfutures exploration group in South Africa
I was one of the 'explorers', and from 2017 to 2019 a team of us worked on the idea of how to ignite the spirit of playfulness in the adults who work with children, particularly parents and teachers, and how could we convince them that play was relevant to the skills that children need for the 21st century. The discussion was based on what the World Economic Forum identified as the 10 skills that employers want for the future. Interestingly to us, and the reason we took on this approach, is because we often had parents ask us “how is play going to help my child get a job?"
Our challenge was to translate the World Economic Forum’s insights into language that every parent, teacher and child can understand, using the voice of the child to convince parents of the importance of play in preparing children for the future.
The result was a play poster and brochure that outlined how teachers, artists, community workers and therapists could start conversations about play and inspire the change we need to see in the world if our children are going to have the opportunities they need to play.
This poster and brochure are freely available at:
The poster can hang on classroom walls and in childcare centres as a starting point for teachers and parents to talk about why children need to play, and how to help them. It also shows parents how play will give their children the social, emotional and cognitive skills they need for the 21st century.
It can be shared and printed as much as you like. We take them with us wherever we train as you can see in these photos. Please download them and share them with your communities to draw parents and teachers into the playful world of the child. Join us and the LEGO Foundation in raising our voice across the globe to ensure ALL children get the right to play.