The LEGO Foundation Partners with UNICEF, ChildFund International, The Research Program on Children and Adversity at the Boston College School of Social Work, and Save the Children to Expand Playful Parenting Across the Globe

Yolanda attends a hands-on learning session on child development (including play) with her 5-month-old son, Jose, in the highlands of Guatemala. Photo by Jake Lyell for ChildFund.

Billund, Denmark - 29 October 2019 - Today, the LEGO Foundation announced partnerships with UNICEF, ChildFund International, The Research Program on Children and Adversity (RPCA) at the Boston College School of Social Work, and Save the Children to scale parenting interventions that promote playful interactions in Bhutan, Guatemala, Rwanda, Serbia, and Zambia.

This announcement follows a commitment made by the Foundation from earlier this year, which pledged to bring to scale impactful programs that support parents and caregivers to strengthen 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.

“The LEGO Foundation aims to build a future in which learning through play empowers all children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners,” said Sarah Bouchie, Head of Global Programmes at the LEGO Foundation. “Primary caregivers are fundamental to this aim, as they are critical to their children’s development. We are proud to partner with UNICEF, ChildFund International, RPCA at the Boston College School of Social Work, and Save the Children on this important initiative to help parents across the world incorporate playful learning in their daily lives.”

Parents and primary caregivers have an important role to play in their children’s development. Their responsive parenting 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.

“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.”

“Play has a crucial role in supporting healthy development in children from the outset and is the perfect context for developing positive relationships with caregivers,” said Roger Hearn, International Director at Save the Children Denmark. “Through our work, we hope to empower families with the knowledge they need to playfully engage with children, thereby helping them to form the skills needed to thrive in a complex world.”

Play can reduce stress and anxiety levels associated with adversity. Intervention studies show that play is an effective way of addressing the needs of children who have experienced abuse, violence, poverty and other forms of adversity and trauma.

“The generous support provided by LEGO Foundation will enable RPCA to conduct robust implementation research on the structure, impact and influencing factors around parenting interventions and, most importantly, bring these learnings and work to scale to reach even more families facing extreme poverty,” said Theresa Betancourt, Salem Professor in Global Practice and Director of RPCA at the Boston College School of Social Work. “We will further be able to understand the factors that contribute to a program’s success, for who and in which contexts, in the hopes of yielding the most positive impact.”

Beyond children, primary caregivers also benefit from play, as 9 in 10 parents also say play is fundamental to their own happiness and makes them feel relaxed, energized and more creative, according to a cross-cultural study of parents and children conducted in 9 countries across the globe.

“The bond between parent and child is nurtured through consistent positive interactions like playing together,” said Anne Lynam Goddard, President and CEO at ChildFund International. “And the quality of this relationship is critical to the physical, social and cognitive development processes of the child’s earliest years. The Foundation’s support means that thousands more of Guatemala’s most marginalized families will take hold of their essential role in helping their youngest children achieve their potential — through play.”

The Playful Parenting partnership will directly benefit 200,000 families over the next three years. The LEGO Foundation and their partners will work to ensure that playful parenting interventions and learning through play initiatives translate into significant and lasting benefits for the children, families and their communities. This work will include:


  • UNICEF in Serbia and Zambia: UNICEF will work closely with the governments of Serbia and Zambia to expand culturally relevant playful parenting interventions. These interventions build upon evidence-based parenting programs guiding parents and caregivers on how to engage in play activities that promote motor, cognitive and social-emotional skills. The program will test new approaches to promoting caregivers’ health and emotional well-being, which is key to achieving optimal child development. The partnership will also increase awareness and visibility on playful parenting among the general public, at the national and global levels, through UNICEF’s Early Moments Matter campaign.


  • ChildFund International in Guatemala: ChildFund will bring a set of evidence-based playful parenting interventions to scale in six departments across Guatemala, in rural areas deeply impacted by poverty and discrimination. Partnering with the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, ChildFund will also support advocacy for early childhood development and learning through play within Guatemala and throughout the region.


  • RPCA in Rwanda: The RPCA at the Boston College School of Social Work will grow Sugira Muryango, a playful parenting home-visiting intervention for families facing extreme poverty in Rwanda. In collaboration with both the national and local Rwandan government as well as local non-profit FXB Rwanda, RPCA will expand their intervention efforts while in the meantime building the programmatic infrastructure need to help ensure sustainability of the intervention.


  • Save the Children in Bhutan: Save the Children is leading an evidence-based playful parenting intervention designed to reach the parents and caregivers of children aged birth to three across the country. The intervention will become a part of the Bhutan Ministry of Health’s Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses program and the pre-service training for Health Assistants at Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan. It also has a regional advocacy component to share the experience across Asia.


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 play. Learn more on



UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, UNICEF works for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. Learn more on or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

About ChildFund International

ChildFund International works throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas – including the United States – to create connections that drive lasting, positive change for children wherever they are. Our programs address the underlying conditions that prevent any child or youth from achieving their full potential. Last year, we reached 10.5 million children and family members. Approximately 200,000 Americans support our work by sponsoring individual children or investing in ChildFund programs. Learn more at


About The Research Program on Children and Adversity (RPCA) at the Boston College School of Social Work

The purpose of the Research Program on Children and Adversity is to improve lives of vulnerable children and families in low-resource settings through research and translation of evidence-based practices. Together we must strengthen communities through disseminating our research, training the next generation, capacity building and using implementation science to inform programs and policy. We will feel fulfilled when our research has a multiplier effect, and the communities we work in are independently sustainable. Learn more on our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


About Save the Children

Around the world, too many children still start life at a disadvantage simply because of who they are and where they are from. Save the Children has a bold ambition: we believe in a world in which all children survive, have the chance to learn, and are protected from abuse, neglect and exploitation. Our bold ambition builds on 100 years' experience of bringing communities, civil society, governments, businesses and donors together to achieve lasting change for children.

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Media contacts  


Sunshine Sachs  

+1 212 691 2800   


The LEGO Foundation   

+45 2030 8496