A new connection that opens up a world of possibilities. A sense of joy and wonder. An idea that sparks imagination. These are only a few of the many things that happens when a child plays with toys.
To early childhood development professionals, playing is a critical phase for children on their way to becoming students and eventually, well-functioning adults. Unfortunately some communities around the world don’t have the ability or resources to provide children with early childhood development toys. In light of this, the IKEA Foundation and UNICEF are helping children around the globe to play their way into becoming capable and confident individuals, thanks to Early Childhood Development (ECD) kits.
An example of this initiative is taking place in the Comoros Islands, an archipelago nation off the east coast of Africa, nestled between Mozambique and Madagascar. The islands are naturally breathtaking, yet the Comoros is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Here, as nearly half the population lives below the international poverty line, toys are resources that simply aren’t available to all children.
The ECD kits are the brainchild of UNICEF - part of their effort to make early childhood education, stimulation and growth a right for all children. It’s a goal that the IKEA Foundation shares, which is why they were happy to donate enough IKEA toys to eventually reach more than 1.2 million kids.
There are more than 7,000 children benefitting from ECD kits in the Comoros.
More than 1.2 million children will benefit from ECD kits with IKEA toys. The kits are also used in conflict areas like Syria and Lebanons.
"It’s how human beings develop. We learn through touching things, interacting with our peers, identifying things with our eyes, recognising colours and counting."
What’s in an ecd kit?
About the size of a large suitcase, the kits are like colourful and exciting treasure boxes. They contain up to 43 items, including toys and hygiene products. The IKEA Foundation donated eight of the 43 items, all of which have been carefully selected by UNICEF to teach vital life skills to children between the formative ages of three and six.
This age group is an important developmental phase for learning cognitive and social skills that will help children succeed in school. Hand puppets teach children how to communicate with peers and express themselves; shape sorters teach fine-motor skills and cooperation, and coloured paper and scissors stimulate creativity.
"Play is the easiest way to stimulate this kind of learning and development."
The importance of play
“Play is the easiest way to stimulate this kind of learning and development,” says Julika Riegler, IKEA Foundation’s communications liaison with UNICEF. “It’s how human beings develop. We learn through touching things, interacting with our peers, identifying things with our eyes, recognising colours and counting.”
UNICEF has already found that the kids who benefit from early childhood development programmes are more successful in school and have a lower dropout rate, a particular problem in poor communities.
“Children identify school with fun and that keeps them in school,” Julika says. “This is a way to unlock opportunities for kids to develop into young adults, who have the opportunity to study, start businesses, have an income, and support their own children and families later. That’s the long-term growth that education and play can bring.”
Of course children themselves don’t realise how important playing is. But that’s the beauty of the kits — they allow children to simply play, and to simply be children for as long as they can.
IKEA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of INGKA Foundation, the owner of the IKEA Group of companies. The IKEA Foundation aims to improve opportunities for children and youth in some of the world’s poorest communities by focusing on four fundamental areas of a child’s life: a place to call home; a healthy start in life; a quality education; and a sustainable family income. IKEA Foundation is also helping these communities fight and cope with climate change.