92 Bowery St., NY 10013

+1 800 123 456 789



How children learn and develop through different types of Play

Children, particularly those from marginalised communities, are often denied access to play. Play helps children explore their physical environment and learn about the world right from childhood. It helps them express emotions and improve communication. Attachment theory points to human development beginning with two irreducible forms of play: attuned and exploratory. Play theorists, however, generally group play into three irreducible categories: solitary locomotor-rotational play, object play, and social play. Briefly, solitary play is primarily kinesthetic and takes place alone; object play can be social or solitary and involves the manipulation of inanimate objects; and social play involves two or more players. 

Types of Play 

Attuned play might seem the quintessential example of social play. But social play requires a self and an “other.” Since attuned play occurs before the infant forms an identity or a sense of an “other”, attuned play may be more accurately described as protosocial play. 

Object play maps easily onto exploratory play, which can be social, solitary, or object play. 

Free play (includes, pretend play)

The term free play is frequently used to describe play that is child directed, voluntary, and flexible and often involves pretend play. Studies that examine pretend play in children, or play that involves taking on different roles in pretend situations, define this type of play as exclusively child directed and therefore a type of free play. Some researchers have highlighted the vague nature of the concept of free play, as even spontaneous, child-led play is dependent on children’s previous experiences, and children’s interests tend to be introduced by adults rather than come from innate tendencies. 

Adult-guided play

Adult-guided play, in contrast, is described as lying “midway between direct instruction and free play” . In guided play, the activity can be either child initiated or adult initiated, but it is emphasised as a child-directed practice in which, just like in free play, the locus of control is placed with the child. Children direct their own learning within the established play contexts, while teachers enhance the learning experience by playing the role of commenters, coplayers, questioners, or demonstrators of new ways to interact with the materials involved. 

Play-based learning

Play-based learning has been described as a teaching approach involving playful, child-directed elements along with some degree of adult guidance and scaffolded learning objectives. The purpose of play-based learning is inherent in its name: to learn while at play. 

Inquiry play (play-based learning)

In inquiry play, the locus of control remains largely with the child. This type of play is child initiated, and, in response to child interests, teachers extend the play through the integration of related academic standards. 

Collaborative play (play-based learning)

In collaborative play, there is a shared locus of control. Teachers direct the outcomes of this play by determining the academic skills that students will develop. The teacher and students collaboratively design the context of the play, including both the theme and the resources necessary to the play. The children then direct the play within the created environment. 

Source: Origins of Play and Playfulness, Gwen Gordon | A continuum of play-based learning: The role of the teacher in Play-based Pedagogy and the fear of hijacking play, Angela Pyle & Erica Danniels, 2017


Toybank’s Play2Learn programme increases curiosity, attention span in children

In a research conducted by The Opentree Foundation under the Toybank project between 2017 and 2020, it was found that Toybank’s Play2Learn programme led to 10x increase in curiosity levels of children, 5x increase in honesty levels, and 2x increase in attention span. 

At Toybank, we adopt the Conscious Play™ approach to enable children from vulnerable communities to alleviate stress, build resilience and overcome probable adversity. Across 585 Play2Learn centres in 12 districts across Maharashtra, India, we provide safe spaces to over 75,000 at-risk children to be on track with their mental well-being, as well as socio-emotional and cognitive development. 

In early 2017, Toybank’s Play2Learn programme commenced in 13 Maharashtra Housing Board (MHB) schools at the informal settlements in Malwani, Mumbai, India. Children at MHB, growing up in challenging circumstances, needed to be equipped beyond a basic checklist of development and success. Our Conscious Play™ approach taught children to adapt, take risks, develop skills, explore alternatives, share and co-exist with each other. 

Through a baseline, midline and endline study over the course of three years, we conducted an impact study of its Play2Learn programme and tracked five key behavioural characteristics of children in these centres. This was done with a pre-designed, semi-structured  questionnaires, which was used to conduct in-depth interviews with 64 teachers (Class 1 to 8) in MHB, who represented 1,927 children. 

The study showed our Play2Learn programme’s impact on 5 key behavioural characteristics:

Rise in curiosity levels

The circumstances Malwani’s children grow up in hamper their drive for exploration and learning. With the set-up of Toybank’s Play2Learn Centers, these children had age and developmentally appropriate learning experiences that gave an outlet to their curiosity. Through our ‘Habit Formation’ module, they were encouraged to rise above difficulties and face the challenges. In the early days of our intervention, these children would avoid alphabetical, numerical and strategic games. Their confidence was boosted in our Play2Learn programme sessions, where they shed their inhibitions and explored challenging games with curiosity.

Increase in honesty levels 

We interviewed teachers about whether children took ownership of their actions (accepting mistakes, taking queries to teachers without hesitation, trusting peers and teachers). Before our interventions, the classrooms witnessed instances of bullying, teasing and intolerance. Children didn’t trust their peers, let alone seek refuge in teachers, whom they feared and never bonded with. But once our programme made playtime an essential part of their schedule, they started playing in mixed groups and have more empathy for each other. The ‘Habit Formation’ module taught them positive ways of living with others. Teachers became children while playing with them and gradually students opened up to them as well.

Decrease in anger and aggressive behaviour

Difficult circumstances cause distress in children’s personal lives and academics, affecting their relationships with their classmates and impeding their opportunities to learn. Along with our Play2Learn programme session rules of taking turns, patience, negotiation and problem solving, as well as the Anger Management module where children learn to cope with anger, jealousy and other such emotions, the children sstarted to exhibit more kindness and respect than they already did in their circles. They now channeled and practised these good habits with everyone.

Decrease in hyperactive tendencies and distractions/Increase in focus and attention

With the introduction of our play interventions, children were more interested in learning. They gradually learned to wait, play step-by-step, listened and followed instructions attentively. Alongside the games, ice-breakers like ‘Orange-Lemon-Banana’, ‘Traffic Signal’, ‘Clap activities’, etc. taught them self-control, listening skills, ways to be calm and avoid distractions.

Increase in emotional sensitivity

The multiplayer feature of many of our games ensured children played with each other and made friends, became empathetic and sensitive towards each other. Many activities such as ‘Just like me’ have made children aware that we all face challenges in life and that they aren’t alone. They can talk about it to their friends or a trusted person and find a whole array of solutions to cope with these emotions and recover their positivity.

Current practices in classrooms constrain a child’s intrinsic need to learn (curiosity), paving way for boredom, absenteeism, and disinterest in learning (lack of attention). Children may retort to temper tantrums (aggressive behaviour) because of emotional reasons, like not being able to cope with or describe their feelings. Making children more reflective (honest) of their actions individually and how they can affect others (emotional sensitivity) is the need of the hour. Through Toybank’s Conscious Play™ approach at MHB schools, children continue to learn to adapt, take risks, develop skills, explore alternatives, and share and co-exist with each other. These skills will not only help them navigate through adversities and successes that come their way today but will also prepare them for future endeavours.


Source: 3-year impact study in Malwani, informal settlements in Mumbai, India by The Opentree Foundation in April 2017 – March 2020.


Play for Transformation: Toybank roundtable discussion

The need to make Play mainstream and an integral part of society can never be emphasised enough. After all, play improves the educational, health and employability outcomes for children.
Driving on this notion, Toybank hosted its first-ever round table, to discuss ‘Play for Transformation’ and how to make it mainstream. The session was attended by Toybank’s trustees, board members and supporters.
Is Play understood and prominent in India? Is there a need to fully understand play before incorporating it into a child’s lifestyle? Notions like it is creativity and a child creating something is playing restricts its definition. If we redefine play, it may have a greater impact on children. The panel reckoned it’s a state of mind that can give you clarity of thought and minimize frustrations, which can be implemented in different aspects of life.
Play has been mainstreamed only in Scandinavian countries that have recognized its power. In India, it’s still as sidelined as mental health. The reason for play being just tangential indicated several issues it’s dealing with.
It comes at a cost 
Even though the right of every child, Toybank Advisory Board Member Vivek Jhangiani and CEO at United Toys, President of The All India Toy Manufacturers Association (TAITMA) and Ambassador for Value of Play in the Indian toy industry, pointed out that play is accessible only to the affluent. There’s a considerable gap between India and the world when it comes to the commercials of play. “In India, the per capita of games, toys or sports-related products on a single child does not cross $3 a year, as opposed to $300-400 in the US. The mindset of an average Indian towards play comes partly from limited resources,” Vivek states. 

“In India, the per capita of games, toys or sports-related products on a single child does not cross $3 a year, as opposed to $300-400 in the US”

— Vivek Jhangiani, Toybank Advisory Board Member & CEO, United Toys
Advisory Board Member Ratan Batliboi, Board Chair and Hon. Trustee at CRY, further stated that we do not need props, money, space or urban planning to play. It’s an innate behavioral shift that needs to transpire. The critical issue is how one can communicate the long-term change in a parent body and students.
Play v/s sport
Parents consider academics and extra-curricular activities as important and play does not figure in the scheme of things unless it’s a sport that can be taken up as a career. As key enablers, it’s important that parents understand why play is important. The fun of participation is initiated in a child through play, along with the joy of winning and learning from defeat; later come personality development, extroversion, etc. Learning to play with others and making new friends help make better kids. However, India is yet to realize these benefits; unlike Africa, which is comparable with us in terms of poverty and other issues. But they have a culture of sports that brings them out of their miseries and makes them better athletes.
We do not value play
The ecosystem for play is not quite conducive in India. Policies, lack of urban planning as well as encouragement by parents to send kids to play are some other issues. Toybank supporter Sumangali Gada, Founder and trustee at the PRAJA Foundation, reasoned that even if we get the why of play, we do not value it. “Though we want children to learn empathy, critical thinking and such values, we are at sea about how to actualize these qualities. There are barely any schools that walk the talk and espouse the values that play entails,” says she. 
Performance over play
One of the primary reasons why children do not get enough benefits of play is competitiveness. Nimesh Sumati of Caring Friends says we need to urge parents to not make kids compete but just play. This tendency has percolated to the lower strata of the society, with children facing peer pressure, with performance given more importance than play.

Lack of urban planning and parents encouraging children to play are other issues preventing the mainstreaming of Play.

Play is an add-on 
Taking Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into consideration, with basic issues like food and literacy that India is faced with, play does not get the prominence it deserves, Samonnoi Banerjee, Bain Capital, Managing Director in the Healthcare and Technology, Media & Telecommunications Verticals stated. Play will always be an add-on. It will always be equal to recreation and not a conscious mechanism of development. Unless it is brought into people’s consciousness through a communication or a big campaign like Swachh Bharat, we may never fully comprehend its importance. He further observed that we are looking at a large-scale impact. Accessibility and affordability can be solved through some other ways if we admit that play is important and makes a difference.

The transformative power of play: More than just fun

In a world that often prioritises productivity and achievement, the importance of play can be easily overlooked. However, renowned psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown, in his inspiring TED Talk titled “Play Is More Than Just Fun,” sheds light on the profound impact that play has on our lives. At Toybank, we wholeheartedly believe in the transformative power of play and how it can shape the lives of children. 

In this blog post, we delve into Dr. Stuart Brown’s insightful talk and explore the significance of play in fostering creativity, resilience, and overall well-being.

  • Play as a fundamental need:
    Dr. Stuart Brown emphasises that play is not just an activity for children, but a fundamental need that extends throughout our lifespan. Play is the gateway to learning, exploration, and self-expression. It fuels our imagination, stimulates curiosity, and allows us to engage fully in the present moment.

  • The link between play and creativity:
    Dr. Brown highlights the strong connection between play and creativity. Through play, we discover new possibilities, experiment with different ideas, and cultivate innovative thinking. Whether it’s building with blocks, creating artwork, or engaging in imaginative play, children develop crucial problem-solving and critical thinking skills that lay the foundation for a lifetime of creativity.

  • Play as a catalyst for resilience:
    Play provides a safe space for children to navigate challenges, overcome obstacles, and develop resilience. As Dr. Brown explains, through playful experiences, children learn to adapt, collaborate, and persist in the face of setbacks. They build emotional resilience, learning to manage stress and regulate their emotions effectively.

  • The social benefits of play:
    Play also serves as a powerful tool for building social connections and fostering empathy. In play, children learn to navigate social dynamics, negotiate, and cooperate with others. They develop essential social skills such as communication, empathy, and conflict resolution, which are vital for building healthy relationships and thriving in a diverse society.

Dr. Stuart Brown’s enlightening TED Talk reinforces what we have always known at Toybank – play is more than just fun; it is a fundamental aspect of human development. By providing children with opportunities for play, we empower them to grow, learn, and express themselves. Play has the power to shape resilient, creative, and compassionate individuals who can positively impact society.

At Toybank, we are committed to creating safe and inclusive spaces where at-risk children can experience the transformative power of play. Through our play programmes, we strive to ensure that every child has the opportunity to explore, discover, and develop their full potential. 

Remember, play is not just a luxury; it is a necessity for a brighter and more fulfilling future.

Source: Play Is More Than Just Fun. TED Talk. Dr. Stuart Brown. (2008, May)


Positive mental health through the power of play

A scelerisque purus semper eget duis at tellus. Lobortis scelerisque fermentum dui faucibus in ornare quam viverra orci. Elementum sagittis vitae et leo duis ut diam quam nulla.


The Sibling Paradox: To Play or not to Play?

Siblings are best friends that you are blessed with and most likely spend the most time playing with growing up. These relationships span unmatched rivalry to late-night bonding sessions discussing life and challenges on each other’s bed. However, one thing you can count on siblings to do is to create unforgettable memories made during play-time—from lucky breaks and intense strategies to striking the winning moves. Here are some games that bring back the nostalgia of staying home and playing with siblings.

This game helped us learn a bit about how real estate works. Children learn how to make decisions on how some spaces are more valuable than others and simultaneously develop their cognitive as well as executive function skills. However, never once has this game ever been completed in peace when played with siblings as someone has amassed more money and property and is close to making the others bankrupt – chaos ensues.

This colourful card game teaches kids colour and number recognition and observation skills. Especially, when played with siblings it boosts exceptional attention to detail among many other things. Suddenly each sibling is well-aware of how many cards the other has picked or the number of cards one threw down in the pile. Uno has also been tweaked with households having created different rules with the much debated: Can you play a Draw 4 on a Draw 2? Thus UNO helps children build their creativity as they create new challenges and rules for the game, as well as, always keep an eye out for the hidden Draw-4 that could be hiding in their sibling’s hands.

Hide and Seek
While this game developed our gross motor coordination, muscle development and builds strength. It also encourages the children to observe and come up with good hiding spots. However, when played with siblings, this game encourages children to think extra hard about where to hide or to think outside the box- whether it is to go outside the designated area for hiding or camouflaging in the background.

It’s these play-filled moments that build the foundation of support and trust for the rest of our life. While sibling relationships are often affected by family dynamics, age, gender and more, it’s during playtime that children get to interact with each other on an equal footing and connect as individuals. Sibling bonds strengthen and they become our support system through the time spent playing together – whether it is one-on-one or as a team with other members of the family. games played with them that we bond, develop critical thinking and social skills while creating memories that last a lifetime.

Image credits: Pixabay


Chess: Of 64 squares and winning moves

Most of us would have tried our hand at a game of chess at some point, but many do not know that children as young as three to five years can benefit from playing the game. They learn to strategise, analyse, and decode while developing foresight and comprehension skills while playing this ancient board game. Created almost 1500 years ago in India, this popular game has shown an increase in concentration, memory, logical thinking, problem-solving skills and creativity. Chess has thrived for centuries and today we have international championships and acclaimed Grandmasters of the game, all under the watchful eyes of the International Chess Federation(FIDE), who have the final word on the rules and regulation of the game.

India Story
With Grandmasters like Vishwanathan Anand and Praggnanandha, Chess is played very widely across India and is especially loved by children. Currently, there are around 40 Grandmasters below the age of 15 years with Gukesh D who took the title of India’s youngest GM at 12 years, 7 months and 17 days, succeeding Praggnanandhaa who held the record at 12 years and 10 months since June of 2018.

Game Play
A game of chess can last from a few seconds, known as blitz or rapid, to hours or even days, when played in its long format. The game can be roughly divided into three stages: Opening, Middlegame and Endgame. While the Openings are more about learning different theories to position one’s chess pieces strategically on the board, the Endgame is mastering the winning moves after most pieces have been exchanged. The Middlegame is where the player can unleash his strategic thinking and creativity and play some signature moves.

Chess is a well-loved board game at Toybank’s Play2Learn centres with children from 10 years onwards getting introduced to the various nuances of this exciting mind game that requires patience as well as stamina. Even our volunteers are active proponents of this game and join our play sessions to teach our kids the ropes of winning.

Photo credit: Pixabay


A little drama on World Play Day

There is freedom in being playful and fun and not caring about what people think. This overall freedom adds to the positivity and fun and makes one feel light.

– Shaun Williams, Acting Coach and Toybank workshop curator

On the hot and humid day of 28th May, amidst the sweltering heat of Mumbai, a palpable sense of excitement filled the air as Team Toybank headed to celebrate World Play Day. The teachers from Toybank’s partner, SHARE, eagerly awaited the children at the community centre located inside the one of the serpentine bylanes of the Golibaar neighbourhood in Santacruz East, Mumbai. Soon, a teeming crowd of children surrounded Shaun Williams, the actor and drama coach, who was leading our curated World Play Day drama workshop.

After brief introductions, Shaun engaged them with questions ranging from pop culture to their favourite songs and games. And so began a round of fun vocal exercises through imitation of animal sounds and enactments of everyday activities like eating a sandwich or an ice cream. The short ice-breaker helped the children overcome their initial hesitation and dive into the ongoing playful engagements. As minutes passed, they could not wait to show their best ghost or lion impressions to Shaun.

The children made a circle as they sat on the floor. They intently focussed their attention as Shaun challenged them to get agile with a quick standing up and sitting down game. He first made a mixed group of all the children and divided the kids into two groups. Each group took turns and walked around the room as Shaun instructed them to double up their pace or lessen it by half the speed. While walking, they enacted eating a chocolate or a sandwich through their gestures. Sometimes they imagined that the floor was flowing with lava. Children were seen jumping around in glee and spontaneously acting out scenarios that evoked a range of emotions, like admiring a flower or reacting to a cockroach near their feet.

They were further divided into smaller groups of six and asked to use their bodies to showcase a flower, a car, a plane, or spell three letter words together. The kids surprised us all with their imaginative depictions. They worked as a team, strategically placing themselves, some pretending as if they were driving cars and bikes.

Even with the sun blazing, the children enthusiastically played in a large, open quadrangle. Shaun taught them many versions of Lock and Key, one remarkably had the catcher tap and ‘lock’’ as many players as they could, while the untapped ‘free’ players would try to ‘unlock’ their fellow mates by crawling through their feet. Another version had kids acting out a zombie apocalypse, where if touched, they would turn into zombies and start turning others one too. The kids loved enacting the dramatic metamorphosis into zombies.

These games invigorated the children, the sweltering heat did not matter, nor did the hot ground – there were only giggles, laughter and some zombie squeals that echoed. After this exhausting exercise, the children went back into the room, still laughing, and were instructed to hydrate and rest for five minutes. But even within those five minutes, they began playing games amongst themselves and the Toybank Team. Shaun then instructed them to lie down and guided them through calming exercises and meditation to soothe them while engaging their imagination.

After the kids seemed rested, they were again asked to sit in a circle and use a dupatta as anything but the dupatta. As an example, Shaun folded the dupatta and used it as a phone. Almost immediately the kids came up with ideas, using the piece of cloth as a steering wheel, a bike handle, headgear, as a skipping rope. Even more fascinatingly, they used it to make jackets which the children laughingly said that they learnt from ‘Five Minutes Craft’ on YouTube. Post this, a group of boys decided to present a play where they showed interactions with the police and a young boy caught speeding.

At the end of the session, this is what our workshop curator Shaun had to say: “I had a good time with the kids because I get to be a kid and be silly with them. There is freedom in being playful and fun and not caring (about what people think). This overall freedom adds to the positivity and the fun and makes one feel light. Play makes life a little more bearable and you become happy. You can be nice to other people that would make them happy and this chain reaction would cause everyone in the world, in theory, to be happy.”

It was great to see how the kids enjoyed the session and promised to not only come for more sessions but also get all their friends to join in too. This session highlighted the importance of physical play sessions. During this workshop, there were no electronics used showing the children that they can have fun and creatively express themselves through physical play sessions. The workshop made them think out of the box. In fact, the kids were sad as the session came to an end.

In today’s time when children’s favourite games are played mostly on phones, it is important to show how playing with each other without glaring at screens can be even more fun. This drama workshop helped them to develop their social and creative skills through play.

By Shanaya Dastoor


5 games to build empathy through play

Tellus mauris a diam maecenas sed enim ut sem. Viverra accumsan in nisl nisi scelerisque eu ultrices vitae. Pellentesque eu tincidunt tortor aliquam.


Manipulating games into teachings: Workshop by Anu Advani

We are limited only by our own imagination. Who would have thought a game like Snakes & Ladders could be used to teach various other things to children?

Make way for Manipulative Training! Anu Advani — a teacher from Brooklyn, US — introduced Toybank’s Program Officers(POs) to unique ways of playing. During this cross-learning session, she shared ‘manipulative’ techniques she applied in her teaching and how she uses Play as a pedagogy. Alongside, the POs shared how Play is used in their profession as a Program Officer which reinforced the Power of Play for Anu.

Manipulation of Games
During the session, Anu asked the POs about how they would use Snakes & Ladders (a game ideally designed for age 8 and above) with all age groups pre-primary, primary and secondary. She encouraged them to think inventively and give their different inputs. Through this, the idea of manipulating an existing game to cater to the children being engaged was established.

Snakes & Ladder for the pre-primary section could be used to teach them two prime elements — numbers up to 20 and colors. For the primary section, Anu recommended using two dices instead of one and ask the children to add and subtract the two numbers to move ahead on the board. Similarly, for the secondary section, multiply or divide the numbers.

In the above example, the extra die added to the game was the manipulative part to make the game more interesting. In the same manner, discarded game coins, dice with colors, Tangram pieces and so on can be used to make any game interesting, engaging and curated to children of various developmental and learning levels.

Team Building Activity
Anu also conducted a Team Building activity where she provided straws, index cards, hand cream, tape and a pair of scissors to the teams and asked them to make the tallest structure that can stand without any support. Two minutes were given for the team to discuss strategies and approaches of constructing the tallest structure. Post which, 10 minutes were allocated to make it.

Each team had a unique solution, no two groups made the same thing. There was a clear team effort.

What next?
After a fun learning session, Anu promised to come back to India for another workshop, with games relevant to the children in India through which she will demonstrate the magic of manipulation. She also suggested that each PO identifies two games and figures ways to use it for all sections of children and try to find manipulatives to enhance them. We can’t wait for the session, which will be a powerhouse of learning!