Every child has the fundamental right to play. On 11 June 2024, we celebrate the first International Day of Play.

This annual celebration is brought to life thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of UN member states and global partners. One key player in this initiative is BRAC, founded by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, our 2019 Yidan Prize for Education Development Laureate.

The recognition of an International Day of Play is a monumental step in championing every child's fundamental right to play—and children and youth have been central voices in calling for the protection and investment in this right.

Play is a game-changer

The UN’s recognition of the International Day of Play highlights the need to remove obstacles for children worldwide to play freely.

Play is the great equalizer, offering children a safe space to develop resilience and confidence while enhancing their holistic well-being. Children who play more frequently access a variety of benefits, from enhanced brain and language development to improved cognitive skills, greater empathy, stronger friendships, and more consistent emotional self-regulation.

BRAC has long advocated for play-based learning. Their Play Lab model helps children access quality early childhood education across diverse settings from South Asia to East Africa, with each project tailored to meet the most pressing local education and humanitarian challenges.

From 2020–2023, the Yidan Prize project funds have supported BRAC in scaling their projects.

In Bangladesh, BRAC helps local people—generally women—launch daycare businesses, having trained 35 caregivers in early childhood development and play-based learning. In turn, they’ve supported 175–200 children.

In Tanzania, BRAC is working with the government to support efforts to offer quality early learning. The team has reached over 2,000 children through 30 Play Labs established in government schools. Children who were enrolled in BRAC’s Play Labs showed better holistic development than those who were not enrolled.

And in Uganda, BRAC has developed Humanitarian Play Labs for children in emergency settings. They’ve set up 35 Play Labs in government schools and refugee communities, increasing access to learning opportunities for over 1,300 children aged 3–5.

The Play Lab model is built on the belief that play is transformative, both at an individual and collective level.

Juliana Mwasu Lubuva, a Play Lab head teacher in Tanzania, shared: “We are living in a community where they lack knowledge on early childhood development, a misconception causing the parents to believe that the curriculum itself just promoted fun and games without learning anything that can contribute to their growth.”

“However, through community mobilization, continuous observation, supervision, and testimonies by staff, teachers, and parents respectively, it was understood that children who graduated from the Play Labs appeared ready to be engaged and easily understood the pre-primary classes compared to ones who didn’t receive the play-based curriculum early on.”

Play on

The International Day of Play is not just a celebration; it’s a call to action. By participating—whether by spreading the word on social media, joining a community event, or simply sharing the news with family and friends—we can further amplify the message that every child has the right to play.

Photo credits: BRAC

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