Introducing “The Promise of Play” on World Refugee Day
Play to Learn launches a new report featuring stories from families, new research findings, and insights about playful early childhood development in humanitarian settings
To mark World Refugee Day, Sesame Workshop is launching “The Promise of Play” report featuring 2022 highlights and research findings from the Play to Learn program, which supports children and families affected by the Rohingya and Syrian refugee crises. Together with the LEGO Foundation, BRAC, the International Rescue Committee, and NYU Global TIES for Children, we are generating new insights about how to bring playful learning and nurturing care to families affected by crises globally – including families like Zubeda’s.
Zubeda is a single mother of mischievous twin boys who recently graduated from a Humanitarian Play Lab, a community-based playful early learning center in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. These play labs are run by BRAC as part of the Play to Learn program, which aims to establish play-based early childhood development (ECD) programming as an essential component of every humanitarian response.
Zubeda and her sons have participated in the Play to Learn program since 2019. Initially, her sons attended the Humanitarian Play Lab in their community, but when COVID-19 arrived, Zubeda and her sons were forced to stay at home. “It was very hot and suffocating. My sons would cry because they missed seeing their friends and attending the Humanitarian Play Lab,” Zubeda explained. She was grateful when BRAC reached out to her via phone calls and SMS messages during the lockdown. “It felt wonderful to talk to someone else, knowing that they were trying to help me,” Zubeda explained. “It’s not easy being a single mother of two sons, but the help and support I received from the BRAC team made life much simpler.” Zubeda’s family, and others like hers, continued to receive support remotely until it was safe for in-person programming to begin again. In 2022, Humanitarian Play Labs were finally reopened for in-person services, welcoming back children eager to learn and play with their friends.
You can read more about Zubeda and other Play to Learn participants in a new report, “The Promise of Play: Supporting Young Children and Families Affected by Crises.” And, in honor of another very special pair of twins, 6-year-old Rohingya Muppets Noor and Aziz, here are six highlights from the report:
- Play to Learn reached more than 200,000 children, caregivers, and ECD facilitators in 2022 through in-person, remote, and hybrid programming in Lebanon, Jordan, and Bangladesh — bringing total reach to over 800,000 to date. Children watched educational videos, sang along to songs, and played new games, while caregivers learned about fun and easy activities to do at home with their children, received guidance on positive parenting and responsive relationships, and more.
- Play to Learn received exciting results from the first formal impact evaluation. Rigorous research on an 11-week remote preschool program in Lebanon that integrated playful learning approaches found statistically significant impacts on children’s language, numeracy, motor, and social-emotional development. The effects on early literacy and numeracy skills were comparable to those of many in-person preschool programs around the world, which suggests that remote learning can be an effective way to support children when in-person services are not possible.
- A library of 140 animated educational videos was completed and launched. These engaging early learning videos are designed for global use with particular attention to the needs of children affected by conflict and crisis. The videos also introduce a new Sesame Muppet character, Ameera, an 8-year-old girl with a passion for science and comedy who uses a purple wheelchair and forearm crutches due to a spinal cord injury. This content is reaching more than 30 million viewers in 28 countries to date.
- In-person Humanitarian Play Labs (HPLs) in Bangladesh reopened after two years of COVID-19 closures, welcoming back eager children into colorful and safe community spaces. And children had new friends waiting for them when they arrived: Noor and Aziz, Rohingya Sesame Muppets who star in live-action character videos integrated into the HPL curriculum. Noor and Aziz allowed children to see their culture and language reflected in media for the first time.
- The 2023 UN Global Humanitarian Overview included a spotlight on ECD for the first time, thanks in part to Play to Learn’s advocacy efforts. The GHO is the world’s most comprehensive assessment of humanitarian need that sets the agenda for priorities and funding in global humanitarian response.
- Our government partnerships resulted in scaling of ECD programming in national government infrastructure in Jordan and Lebanon. For example, Play to Learn supported Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health to finalize quality standards for all nurseries in the country, providing guidelines for healthy, child-friendly, inclusive and safe services.