The LEGO Foundation Announces AnnMarie Thomas, Founder of the Playful Learning Lab, As Winner of the 2020 LEGO® Prize Award


Billund, Denmark - 10 March 2020 - Today, the LEGO Foundation awarded the 2020 LEGO Prize to AnnMarie Thomas, founder and director of the Playful Learning Lab and Professor in the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas, for her work advocating for and catalyzing learning through play. Since 1985, the LEGO® Prize has been awarded to individuals or organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to the lives of children and are champions of learning through play. The prize is accompanied by a cash award of $100,000 to further research and development within learning-through-play and creativity.

“I am very honored to receive this year’s 2020 LEGO® Prize Award and immensely honored to join the ranks of other recipients working to bring the power of learning through play to all students. The LEGO Foundation is re-defining play and re-imagining learning to ensure that every child has the broad set of skills they need to thrive and succeed in life, and that is a mission I admire. This Prize will allow the Playful Learning Lab to increase the scale of our work, in collaboration with our friends at Minnesota Children's Museum and Metro Deaf School ” said AnnMarie Thomas, Founder of the Playful Learning Lab and Professor in the School of Engineering and the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas.

The announcement was made this week during the first-ever virtual LEGO Idea Conference where the LEGO Foundation hosted a digital, immersive event inviting more than 1,400 researchers, government representatives, educators, practitioners and social innovators through streamed keynotes, breakout sessions, interactive learning and digital Q&As. Inspired by the growing emphasis on creativity in today’s communities, education systems and economies -- with the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report identifying creativity as the third most essential skill to have -- this year’s theme was “Making Creativity Happen: How Can We Cultivate Creative Skills For All Children?” The event advanced practical approaches to help cultivate creativity in education systems around the world.

Notable participants and presenters included Andreas Schleicher, the event’s keynote speaker and Director for Education and Skills, and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General at the OECD; Damian Kulash, frontman of the rock group OK Go; Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director of Education Scotland; Diane Hebb, Director of Engagement and Participation at Arts Council of Wales, Andria Zafirakou, recipient of the 2018 Global Teacher Prize; Mitchel Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab; and Carly Ciarrocchi, star of Sprout’s Sunny Side Up and host of the conference, among others.

“In this age of rapid innovation, children will encounter unimaginable advances and have to navigate unpredictable dilemmas, and the traditional learning method of fact memorization and regurgitation is not sufficient to enable them to survive and thrive in this environment. Instead, education systems must proactively incorporate solutions to enable children to develop a breadth of skills -- including physical, social, cognitive, emotional and, especially, creativity,” said John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation. “This year’s virtual conference gathered Creativity Champions from all over the world to learn how caregivers, teachers and government systems can leverage approaches such as learning through play to help children develop their creativity, as a skill and a mindset to carry with them for their lifetimes.”

The virtual LEGO Idea Conference provided attendees with a range of approaches to help children develop their creativity, which in turn helps to foster interpersonal skills, problem-solving and academic achievement. According to the LEGO Foundation research, creativity is also critical in developing solutions to address social, economic and political issues.

The LEGO Foundation also released two new publications that complement this year’s program and outline the importance of promoting creativity in children around the world:



The LEGO Idea Conference further galvanized the LEGO Foundation’s aim of building a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. 


About the LEGO Foundation
The LEGO Foundation aims to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow; a mission that it shares with the LEGO Group. The LEGO Foundation is dedicated to building a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. Its work is about re-defining play and re-imagining learning. In collaboration with thought leaders, influencers, educators and parents the LEGO Foundation aims to equip, inspire and activate champions for learning through play. Learn more on


Sunshine Sachs
Aanchal Khurana  
+1 212 691 2800  

The LEGO Foundation
Christina Witcomb
+45 2030 8496