The LEGO Foundation’s grant to research playful parenting awarded to FHI Partners

woman holding baby

Learning through play is an engaging, motivating and transformative process for children. It helps them to develop creativity, imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills. Parents are naturally and uniquely positioned to provide their children with playful learning experiences as a child’s first and lasting playmate. Although initial research shows that playful parenting works, more evidence is needed to understand the relationship between playfulness and parenting and to bring playful parenting programs successfully to scale.

A new partnership with the LEGO Foundation will address this need. The Playful Parenting Implementation Research grant was awarded by the LEGO Foundation in May 2020 to FHI Partners, a subsidiary of FHI 360 that harnesses the organization’s decades-long expertise in evidence-based project implementation research.

Under this five-year award, FHI 360’s experts will work under the LEGO Foundation’s Playful Parenting Initiative in five countries with four leading organizations to produce insights into the implementation and scaling of playful parenting interventions. By studying interventions by Save the Children, Child Fund, The Research Program on Children and Adversity (RPCA) at the Boston College School of Social Work, and UNICEF in Bhutan, Guatemala, Rwanda, Serbia and Zambia, the FHI 360 team has an opportunity to generate critical evidence with global application in the field of learning through play in early childhood development (ECD).

The research will help define what works for scaling effectively and the impact it has on caregivers, service providers and children. FHI 360’s experts will build the knowledge base by embedding a research and learning agenda into five playful parenting programs to weave together key learnings and illuminate pathways to scale.

Dr. Frances Aboud, whose decades of research shapes much of the global dialogue around parenting interventions, is the project’s Co-Principal Investigator. “Very little information is available about scaling parenting programs both horizontally to new regions and vertically throughout the system,” said Dr. Aboud. “Because each implementing team is operating in a different context but with the same effective scaling goal in mind, we have a unique opportunity to integrate across teams and compare their strategies and outcomes.”

As both a research and learning partner to the Playful Parenting Initiative, the FHI 360 team will harmonize data collection efforts across partners to generate evidence that is distilled into concrete learnings for the global playful parenting community.

Ricardo Michel, Managing Director of FHI Partners, said, “This is an exciting opportunity to build a strategic relationship with such a critical player in the ECD ecosystem. As our first engagement with the LEGO Foundation, this partnership is a testament to FHI Partners’ model and mission to leverage all of FHI 360’s technical expertise and programmatic experience to provide creative solutions for corporations and foundations.”

“The earliest moments of learning through play take place within families, and it is important that such experiences are meaningful and engaging for both the parents and children,” explained Sarah Bouchie, Head of Global Programmes with the LEGO Foundation. “Through this investment in research, we will gather insights, document innovations and share these approaches across governments, civil society partners and donors for replication and scaling up to reach more parents and children with learning through play.”

Learn more about our work in implementation science. For additional information about the Playful Parenting Implementation Research project, please contact FHI 360.

Photo credit: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360