Billund, May 27, 2021: The LEGO Group, the LEGO Foundation, and UNICEF today announced a partnership to bring learning-through-play to help early years development in children living in disadvantaged regions of China.
The three-year partnership will see approximately US$2.5 million invested in providing resources to community-based family support programmes to help caregivers understand the importance and life-long benefits of incorporating play into their everyday lives and enhance caregivers’ capacity to better support their young children.
Research(1) has found that caregivers and young children in less developed areas interact less, and that disparity exists between urban and rural areas in many aspects of early childhood development, such as the opportunity to develop language.
“UNICEF is working with our partners so that every girl and boy’s rights to health, education and protection are achieved. Upholding these rights in the early years impacts a child’s long-term health, education and well-being. This partnership is important because parents, caregivers and children all have much to gain from play-based learning and positive parenting,” said Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF Representative to China.
The project will focus on children and their caregivers in 200 disadvantaged rural communities and those with a high proportion of children affected by migration across ten provinces and autonomous regions, including Gansu, Guizhou, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan.
It is expected to 20,000 children aged 0 to 6 years old and around 40,000 caregivers will benefit directly through access to better quality community-based family support services, improved parenting practices and behaviors, and use of age-appropriate play materials.
“Caregivers, families and communities play the most important role in the early years of a child’s life, but they often lack the knowledge, skills and resources to best support their children’s development. Demand for early learning and care support services is high, but access is limited by availability and affordability, disproportionately affecting the most disadvantaged children,” said Sanaullah Panezai, Chief of Education at UNICEF China.
With the support of the LEGO Group, UNICEF will work closely with its national counterpart to empower parents and caregivers to support children’s play and practice playful parenting, and build a sustainable and scalable system of community-based services. This will lay a strong foundation for children’s learning and socio-emotional competencies. It will employ a sustainable capacity development model, whereby in-person training and on-line support will be provided to practitioners, combined with the provision of play materials and online demonstration and mini-classes to guide local practitioners.
Diana Ringe Krogh, Head of LEGO Collaboration and Social Ventures at the LEGO Foundation, said: “We aim to build a future in which learning through play empowers all children to become creative, engaged, life-long learners. Parents, who are their children’s first playmate, are fundamental to that aim and have the opportunity to provide a head start through learning through play, that can last far beyond the early years.”
A long-lasting bond between parent and child can be established through playful interactions, laying the foundation for a positive and healthy relationship that can grow throughout childhood. The potential for children to learn fundamental skills through parent-child play in the early years is vast. The brain develops rapidly in the early years of a child, producing more than a million neural connections each second.
Kathrine Kirk Muff, Vice President of Social Responsibility at the LEGO Group, said: “It is our mission to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, and we believe that every child has the right to play. Parents and caregivers are critical people in a child’s upbringing, their development and wellbeing. And they play a central role in asking for and bringing more learning through play to children every day. We envision this partnership as an important step forward in bringing joyful play experiences and early development opportunities to more children-in-need in China.”
The LEGO Group announced last September its commitment to invest up to US$400 million to accelerate sustainability and social responsibility initiatives. By 2022, the LEGO Group aims to reach 8 million children around the world annually with learning-through-play through a range of activities with partners, in collaboration with the LEGO Foundation. Two million parents and caregivers will be reached by the end of 2022 through programmes designed to educate them about the life-long benefits of play. It will build on its work with organisations such as UNICEF, Save the Children and local partners to scale up programmes that give children-in-need access to play and opportunities to develop life-long skills such as problem solving, collaboration and communication.