5 Programs that Prove Learning Can Be Fun

Kristen Grauer

Here at CEI we identify, analyze, and connect early childhood development (ECD) initiatives that focus on play-based learning. This week's feature image is courtesy of the Playtime in Africa Initaitive. Learn more about this CEI program below!

There are several ways to interpret the concept of "play." It can be descibed as enjoyable activity, "making pretend," or engaging with specific materials, people, or environments. However, it is inarguable that the most critical stage of human development is early childhood. Research from Early Childhood Australia suggests that by allowing children to "explore, identify, negotiate, take risks, and create meaning" through play, they are able to develop cognitive and creative skills that they may not at a later age.

While a number of CEI programs encourage the integration of play with traditional education methods, the following programs are four examples of initiatives seeking to help children, parents, and teachers use creativity and imagination to learn.

Chalk House Play & Learn Centers cater primarily to the education needs of disadvantaged children in Nigeria who have not only missed out on the benefits of early childhood learning, but are presently without access to quality education opportunities. Its target beneficiaries include orphans, child workers, children with disabilities, linguistic and ethnic minorities, among others. The initiative helps families to build literacy and numeracy skills, as well as foster positive social relationships among community members. Its mission is to demonstrate to both children and parents that lifelong learning capabilities can be fostered through recreational tools such as games, toys, technology, and children's books. 

2. The Playtime in Africa Initiative | Ghana

The Playtime in Africa Initiative aims to establish a model green space for the city of Accra where children are able to refine creative thinking skills through hands-on activities. A key aspect of this program is its child-centered approach to the design of interactive play area installments that facilitate arts and crafts, creative writing, storytelling, games and sports, gardening, movement and dance, science and nature exploration, as well as theater and performance. To date, the initiative has reached 600 students and successfully encouraged public policy makers to make imagination and innovation a greater priority in the region.

3. Ocean View Toy Library | South Africa

Ocean View Toy Library provides children with access to stimulating play materials that help them to reach their full potential by developing a strong foundation for learning, behavior, and health. Additionally, the program engages parents through household visits, encouraging them to take an active role in their child's development from birth. The program was founded in 2012 in response to the lack of safe spaces for mothers and children to play in the Ocean View township. The Toy Library gives families a place to gather and access toys that build children's confidence and learning abilities. The initiative currently serves approximately 30 children a day and has caught the attention of community leaders in Masiphumelele and Limpopo.

4. Lively Minds Ghana, Uganda

Lively Minds works to support children and their families in rural areas through creative early education programs that are run by the communities themselves. It does so through a multi-pronged approach: play centers, community empowerment, health awareness and promotion, and child sacrifice prevention initiatives. Its play centers target children in the age range of 3-6 and helps them to develop key numeracy, literacy, and creative thinking skills through interactive activities. In its first five years, the program established 39 play center in Ghana and 28 in Uganda. In the future, it hopes to refine its model and replicate in as many places as possible.

5. High Scope Training of Trainers ProgramSouth Africa

High Scope is designed around the concept that young children learn best through play in a stimulating environment, encouraged by supportive adults. Central to the approach is that interactions are child-led. This particular program trains adults to participate in children's play and development through a training of trainers program. These trainers are encouraged to participate in children's learning activities, rather than act as supervisors, and are taught how to properly observe and evaluate children's progress. In the coming years, the program hopes to spread its best practices by opening centers outside of Queenstown.

To learn more about this topic, check out the following resources on the CEI website:



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