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Category: PLAY2LEARN


Volunteer Speaks: ‘Play is a fundamental right, every child must have access to quality play’

Every child deserves the Right to Play as a fundamental part of their upbringing. Let us all advocate for playful growing years for every child in India.

We were at my child’s annual school fest; and my little one felt overwhelmed by the noise and choices around. So, we decided to take a walk around to see if we could find something of her interest and we stumbled upon The Opentree Foundation’s (TOF) stall, where welcoming smiles caught her attention. While she immersed herself in board games and the volunteers engaged her, I learned about the organisation.

The Opentree Foundation is a Mumbai-based non-profit, founded in 2004, with Toybank — Development through Play as its flagship project. Their mission instantly resonated with me. Working with a play space design firm and being part of a family of play enthusiasts, I understand and appreciate the Power of Play. But, what truly captivated me was the foundation’s use of play to enrich lives. They nurture children to become strong individuals, promote open-mindedness, and impart vital life lessons through play, all in a structured and impactful way.

Play is integral to our lives, a cherished part of our family routine, it is a basic right. However, for many children quality play is a privilege. This realisation led to me volunteering with TOF. 

Volunteering with the organisation has helped me:

Share the joy of play: Bring in my energy, excitement, perspective, experience in the play sessions and impart some impromptu learning led by the games or interactions we have.

Belief in the cause: After I spoke to the co-founder, Shweta Chari, and heard the emotion and conviction she had towards making Right to Play a reality for every child in India, I knew I wanted to contribute.

Playful living: Play does not need to be a chore or an activity you indulge in for a short while in a day. Play and playfulness is a way of living a better life. I felt that volunteering with TOF would have a positive impact on my days. The thought of indulging in play with a group of children only meant: excitement, joy and fun. 

So far, my volunteering experience at the foundation has been a humbling and joyful experience. The instant connection with children through play is remarkable; they play with enthusiasm and openness, embracing respect, kindness, and sharing, as that is what TOF’s play sessions promote. Most play sessions are filled with curiosity and squeals of excitement. Heartwarming moments, like them including me in their games and cheering for me, show how bonds form quickly through play. I have learned a few new games in these sessions I attended, and have played it again with my family back at home. Attending these play sessions allows me to disconnect from my regular routine and to-do lists. 

Play is more than just fun. It is a necessity. It creates cherished childhood memories, teaches crucial life skills, and shapes attitudes. Every child deserves the Right to Play as a fundamental part of their upbringing. Let us all advocate for playful growing years for every child in India!

This article has been drafted by Gunjan Shenoy, a volunteer with The Opentree Foundation, talking about her experiences from attending play sessions.

If you would like to volunteer with us, please drop an email to! 


Hope 2024: DAIS students become a voice for Right to Play

On February 24, we witnessed play in all its forms at Hope 2024, the CAS (Creativity. Activity. Service.) fete held at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School (DAIS) in Mumbai. The annual fete organised by the school’s team and students served as a platform for various NGOs to spread awareness about their cause and raise funds. 

Our amazing 14 CAS volunteers from Toybank – Development through Play showcased their commitment by setting up fun activities at their stall, including Chess, Roll the Dice, Basketball and more. They had also designed collaterals to spread awareness on the Power of Play. It was a delightful sight to witness these young minds channelling their creativity and energy towards mainstreaming play. 

DAIS Toybankers also shared their experience of facilitating play at one of our play centres at the Gandhi Bal Mandir School, where they resonated with the Conscious Playapproach that aims to build essential life skills of communication, critical thinking and socio-emotional learning. They spoke about their experiences in witnessing skill development through play and how play helps promote collaboration and develop problem-solving skills. 

Beyond just fundraising, the students took initiatives to advocate for the importance of play in child development. They highlighted the significance of mainstreaming play and the fundamental Right to Play for every. Their efforts not only raised awareness, but also helped the audience understand the transformative Power of Play in shaping young lives.

It was a wonderful feeling to know that future generations truly understand and appreciate the value of play and are torch bearers for ensuring that we mainstream play in India. Play helps us drown all the other noise and puts us quickly into our true selves, into our elements, allowing us to be ourselves. Through our work, we aim to make the Right To Play a reality for every child in India.

We would also like to thank Bollywood stars Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani and Daboo Ratnani for being so gracious and supporting the Power of Play. 


How playing in a team builds leadership skills

It was an exciting Monday for students of Class 6 at the Priyadarshini Vidyamandir in Kandivli, Mumbai, as their morning began with Play. Students were split into groups and given games at random. One such group included five girls who were overjoyed when they received Mechanix and decided to construct something of their choice.

As a group, they first decided what they wanted to construct. It was an amusement park ride, the one which has multiple swings and rotates in circular motions. They then split the tasks among themselves and decided to construct one swing each, and later put it together. One member of the group was handing over bolts and nuts as required and holding the base structure together. 

At one point, when there were too many thoughts on how the structure should be put into place, Esha (name changed) stepped in and came to a conclusion for the team. She did this while taking into account everyone’s opinions and perspectives. 

“I like play sessions,” she said. “It allows me to have a fun time with my friends and play new games every time. I also enjoy being the leader in a group.”

Play makes learning far more engaging and applicable. It is focused on learner agency, where children have the freedom to make choices. Studies have shown that when you are more invested in your own learning, there is a chance that whatever you have learned is going to stay for longer with you. 

Apart from academics, there are also the life skills that children need to succeed as adults. And learning through play also gives children a chance at practicing those skills. When you make children play in a group, they are learning to put forth their perspective and opinions and also listen to the others in the team. And Esha’s group is one such example. 


Kala Ghoda Festival 2024: ‘Volunteering with Toybank a fulfilling experience’

On January 26, our school, Aditya Birla World Academy (ABWA), collaborated with Toybank – Development through Play to celebrate play in all forms at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2024. We conducted a t-shirt painting activity with 30 children from the Gilder Lane Municipal School, Mumbai Central. 

We were split into different groups and were overjoyed, as we guided a group of young artists to designing a t-shirt. It was a wholesome and fulfilling experience as we worked, learned and laughed together with the children. It was not just a good experience, but also left the children with memories and a small takeaway in the form of the t-shirts they designed. 

Initially, it seemed like a simple task. It felt like we had to place a template on the tshirt and ask them to paint it anyway they liked, but the experience was a lot more wholesome than that. One of the girls had her own vision with the story she wanted her t-shirt to tell. She curiously glanced around to see the stencils others were using and what colours were available. She borrowed the required resources for her designs and ensured that other groups had enough for themselves. It made me appreciate the little things in life, seeing how she would trade materials with others so everyone could have variation and options for the art on their t-shirt. 

All in all, we were spectators to their art and seeing how their mind worked to create such vivid, colourful and bright pieces was also interesting. Even the sheer variation between all the tshirts was an exciting sight. Some painted their entire t-shirts into a completely different colour before using the stencils and some made multicolour forests and flowers.

Seeing the sheer joy on the faces of the children made all our worries disappear, fading away as we were completely absorbed in the activity. This showed us that taking out a few hours from our life to help others is a more fulfilling experience than anything else. 

This article is written by a group of Class 11 students, who are also Toybank – Development through Play volunteers, under the CAS programme from their school, Aditya Birla World Academy (ABWA). 


Through Play, 10-year-old explores creativity, develops problem-solving skills

Naseem (name changed) is a 10-year-old studying at the MHB School in Malad (West). When Toybank’s Outreach Officer (OO) went to Naseem’s class, the teacher mentioned that he was disruptive in class. The OO also noticed that it was difficult for Naseem to pay attention in class and he deliberately disturbed them. He would not pay attention even when the rules for the games were being explained. The other children also avoided playing with him, as he would bother his group and not let them play.  

The OO decided to use play to build a relationship with Naseem, one game at a time. The OO introduced a rule saying that the children who did the activity well would get the games first. At the start of every play session, the team conducts an energiser or ice-breaker with the entire group before handing over the games. Energiser activities help children reactivate their brain after their academic classes. The OO also reiterated the rules of the play session, emphasising the importance of respecting each other and speaking respectfully without engaging in fights. 

Overtime, as play sessions progressed, Naseem began to take interest in teamwork and play. He began enjoying the play session and said that it helped him feel calm and relaxed. In one of the play sessions, he even led his team in the “Make your own rules” activity. 

As part of our play programme, we encourage children to create their own board games after conducting different kinds of games and activities with them throughout the year. Through these sessions and activities, children get a chance to explore their creativity and develop their problem-solving skills. Children who have been steadily and consciously exposed to play and play opportunities throughout the year are able to think in terms of creating play for themselves.


Power of Play: Class 8 student uses creativity to construct car, set it in motion

Siddharth (name changed) is a Class 8 student and attends the Mumbai Public School (CBSE) in Mulund. He is an active student and is always engaged in class. When the play sessions were first introduced, the Mechanix game interested him the most, as he is fond of cars and wanted to construct one himself. However, he could not complete its construction within one play session. In the next few sessions, he decided to play the same game, as he did not want to give up and was keen on constructing a car. 

With more time on hands, he could execute it skillfully. Once he had constructed a car, he was curious to set the car in motion. This time, he collaborated with his friend and made an attempt to do this with leftover materials such as wires, power banks and more. While Mechanix allowed them to construct a car, their imagination and creativity led them to set the car in motion. They also fitted a sensor on their vehicle, which allowed the car to detect obstacles on its path and automatically apply the brakes. 

Games such as Mechanix help children build skills of logical thinking, cognitive thinking, creativity and problem-solving. Play sessions are a space for children to explore their creative minds and go beyond imagination. In conversation with Toybank’s Outreach Officer, the teacher mentioned that Siddharth felt very happy to have completed this project and he also aspires to create his own automobile someday.


Power of Play: Class 6 children ideate, create their own games, rules

On January 20, we conducted an interesting play session with students of Class 6 at the Jankalyan School in Malad (West). The previous play sessions have exposed them to different kinds of games and got them thinking about the different aspects of problem-solving such as asking questions to find information about a problem, brainstorming solutions for a problem, how do you pick the correct idea and so on. 

In this session, we asked students to think about the structure and design of a game. There was a detailed discussion with students about what goes into making the game, how games are designed, certain games they have played like Catch the Crook or Loot that have themes of crime, investigation, sea, pirates and treasure, whereas some games such as Snakes and Ladder or Ludo do not have a theme. 

Then, there was a conversation about what goes into a game’s mechanics: what are the rules, how does the game progress forward, are there any intentional challenges that are created. For example: in snakes and ladders, you have a snake right before the last block, which makes it difficult for the player to win immediately. We had a conversation with students about what makes a game interesting, how these factors together make a game interesting and then we asked them to develop their own games. These could be based on any game they have played, they could also be a completely new game, but the criteria would be that the game should have a clear set of rules for moving forward, the game has to be challenging, there has to be a particular design or a theme for the game and they have to build out a rule card. Students built five games in all. 

It was fascinating to see how deeply they engaged with play, and how well they used their critical thinking skills to develop these games independently.

Match the Food (based on Memory Skills)

A version of memory skills, which the students had frequently played earlier. It involves covering one side of the pictures. If you roll the dice, the number on the dice determines how many pictures you can open in one turn. You need to uncover the exact matching picture on the other side, in order to score a point. This game tests memory, concentration, and eye-hand coordination.

Football Ludo

A group created a Football-themed ludo. Each of the colours became a team such as Argentina, Portugal, France and Brazil. Each coin was named after a player, and the centre, which is traditionally a home in Ludo, became the goal post. When the dice rolls six, it unlocks a new player and the rules remain the same as Ludo. 

Rainbow Checkers

This group built a version of Checkers. However, instead of using the star-shaped Chinese Checkers, they used a checkerboard and colour coded it. You roll the dice and you move forward. But, there is a spinner that decides whether you move horizontally or diagonally and the coloured squares are coded for points. If you land on blue, you get four points, if you land on red, you get a certain number of points, and so on. The game is a mix of Chinese Checkers, Chess and the likes. 

Survive the Amazon forest!

While most groups built very structured games that follow existing games, one group designed Survive the Amazon Forest. They built out a map along with elements of collaboration. One of the rules said that if you land on a particular number, you fall into a pond and you have to keep skipping your turn, until another player reaches the square before you and actually opts to save you. So, they thought of  cooperative play, which is a very technical game term. The game had an element of cooperative play and collaboration. They also had these tiles such as a pond, an alligator pond, a swamp, along with a maze. If you roll a specific number, you cannot take the regular game path, you have to take an alternative maze path. This game was great in terms of imagination and creativity. 

Counting game

This group built a mathematical spiral game, where they developed different rules for the different dice numbers. This was a mix of Snakes and Ladders, and a physical game that we play, where we count numbers and we replace specific numbers with action. Each number of the dice had a specific action: if you land on the number that has a 3 in it, you get a second turn, if you roll 2, you skip a turn and so on. 

What was most fascinating through this session was that all the concepts that have been taught through the play sessions, in terms of problem-solving, coming up with multiple solutions, teamwork, collaboration and listening to each other’s ideas, we were actually able to witness these when we heard students planning their games. When someone said they had an idea, another student added to that and explained how the idea could be made better. 


Kala Ghoda Arts Festival: Pushing play forward with Arzan Khambatta’s doodle workshop and more

“Unlike their regular art class, the workshop gave them the freedom to play around without any inhibitions whatsoever.”

– Arzan Khambatta, Play Ambassador, Toybank — Development through Play

Play helps build skills of creativity and imagination. And we saw a wonderful example of this at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2024. Through our work, we at Toybank — Development through Play are asking for Play to be embedded into our culture, into the very fabric of our country, and pushing the idea that Play can change society for the better. We believe that joyfulness and playfulness can be a massive driving factor for building a world that is not just resilient, but where play behaviour is deeply understood and encouraged for children and adults both.

On January 26, we collaborated with the Aditya Birla World Academy (ABWA) to celebrate play in all forms. The activities were conducted with 30 children from the Gilder Lane Municipal School, Mumbai Central, and 120 students from ABWA, who participated in two batches.  We also had our very own Play Ambassador Arzan Khambatta conduct a doodle workshop with the children. 

For Arzan, anything that does not have an absolute right and wrong is play, and that was exactly his brief to the children before the workshop started. He told them that doodling meant they could experiment and play as they like with their pens and canvas. The children were amused when they were told that there were no rules to follow with their art.  What started off as empty canvases soon turned into a work of art for many.  “Unlike their regular art class, the workshop gave them the freedom to play around without any inhibitions whatsoever,” said Arzan. 

In addition, students from ABWA conducted a t-shirt painting activity for our children, where they were split into groups. The children were allowed to draw and paint the designs they wanted. It was amazing to watch our children and the students of ABWA work together in bringing alive their ideas. Students got creative and painted trees, flowers and some also came up with their own abstract designs. “I painted my favourite football player’s number on the back along with my name,” said Dheeraj (name changed), a student from Gilder Lane School, when asked about his design. The children were thrilled to get a chance to be creative without any stringent rules, a concept we often see in play.   

We leave you with one of our favourite quotes we truly believe in:

‘When we trust children, they learn to trust themselves. When we honour their way of learning instead of trying to replace it with our own, they learn to love the way they learn. When they love the way they learn, they continue to wonder, be curious, and innovate.”


Spirit of volunteering: Toybankers talk about Play, why volunteering is essential

Our volunteers help us spread the message of Power of Play, while having a playful time themselves. They support us in play sessions and help us make them accessible to more children. Through the years, this support has helped us take play to more children.

On World Volunteering Day, we asked a few of them about their experience so far and how being part of the cause has changed their perception of Play. Here’s what they had to say: 

Play must not be a reward after studies, but part of daily education
Volunteering with Toybank has helped me reconnect with my childhood. It has inculcated in me qualities of patience, resilience and empathy and also helped me understand the importance of play. I now realise that play should not always be a reward after studies, but should be inculcated throughout the school day, as it is extremely educational. Volunteering can help us make a difference and put a smile on childrens’ faces, while playing with them and helping them learn simultaneously. 

Play is a crucial tool for fostering creativity
Through Toybank’s play sessions, I have realised the power of play in the lives of children, especially those from marginalised communities. I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact it has on their development and well-being. I always thought play was a simple, recreational activity, but I now understand that it is a crucial tool for fostering creativity, social skills and emotional growth in children. By volunteering with Toybank, we can all be part of children’s development.   

Every play session teaches you something new
Toybank’s Conscious Playapproach is what drew me to the organisation. Volunteering has not only introduced me to the struggles faced by those from marginalised communities, but also the importance of Play in providing holistic development to a child’s mind. My perception of Play has gone past an object of entertainment – to me, Play can also be a way for people to learn, socialise and develop. Volunteering at Toybank is different, as one will always learn something new from every child and every play session.

Play helps children focus better
I used to think that play was a time outside studies, but volunteering with Toybank has changed my perception of it. I was not very confident of teaching and guiding children during play sessions really helped me.  I have played multiple games with children, thus helping them build skills of collaboration, independence, thinking and reflection. Play is a time when children can forget about the rest of the world, and just focus on the puzzle they are solving or the board games they are playing.

Volunteering has helped me achieve personal growth
Volunteering at Toybank has been a transformative journey, rooted in the belief that every child has the Right to Play. The essence of why I volunteer here is to witness the profound impact of play in shaping young minds. Toybank, an NGO championing play, resonates with me deeply, as it not only advocates for the joy of play, but recognises its pivotal role in a child’s holistic development. My journey with Toybank has reinforced the urgency for more individuals to volunteer with them. Through volunteering, one not only contributes to creating a positive impact but also experiences personal growth. It’s an opportunity to witness firsthand the transformative potential of play in shaping the future generation. 

Volunteering allows me to give and receive fun experiences 
Encouraging children to learn concepts in a fun and engaging manner helps develop their future understanding, as they are more likely to retain the information they learn if they can associate it with positive experiences and learning opportunities. Volunteering with Toybank has allowed me to tailor learning to children’s interests, as I haven’t necessarily played in a very long time. It provides me with the opportunity to both give and receive fun experiences in conjunction with the children.

Volunteering taught me the ability to interact, teach
Toybank’s idea is unique and what drew me to them is its interactive nature of the idea about playing games with young children and the ability to shape their minds. Volunteering has taught me the ability to interact and teach, while being caring and helpful. Play has subsequently changed my outlook on the way games can be used to increase the ability of learning in children. It has strengthened the idea that people should volunteer here so they, too, can get a perspective on the way play and games can be integrated into a child’s learning process

Play is a powerful tool for education and emotional well-being
Spending time with children during play sessions allows me to make a meaningful impact in the lives of children from vulnerable communities. By attending play sessions, I have learned that play is not just a form of entertainment; it’s a crucial part of a child’s development. It has taught me the importance of providing these children with opportunities to learn, grow, and simply enjoy their childhood. Volunteering with Toybank has changed my perception of play by showing me how it serves as a powerful tool for education and emotional well-being. It’s not just about having fun; it’s about fostering creativity, social skills, and resilience in these kids who may face various challenges in their lives.


Toybank Turns 19: Volunteers engage in playful activities, origami workshop

It was heartwarming to see the smiles on those little faces, as they received their thoughtful games. 

On August 26, over 100 volunteers came together to distribute games to 1,674 children and conduct fun activities at a school in Malad. The day marked 19 years of Toybank – Development through Play, and was filled with learning, games, but most of all, PLAY!

We asked a few volunteers to write about their experiences and here’s what they had to say. 

Spreading Smiles: A heartwarming experience at the Toybank event

As a volunteer with Toybank, I have seen this organisation evolve over the years. What started as a simple initiative to collect toys for underprivileged children has now grown into something truly magical, where they promote play and the importance of play-based learning in schools across Maharashtra.  In August, we celebrated ‘Toybank Turns 19’ in a way that left us all with hearts full of joy and gratitude. 

This time, instead of just distributing toys, we, as volunteers, also conducted fun games and activities for the children. We spent quality time with them, played games, and created lasting memories. The celebration was nothing short of spectacular. 

Each volunteer was assigned a group of children, and we spent the day playing, laughing, and sharing stories. It was heartwarming to see the smiles on those little faces, as they received their thoughtful gifts. 

But what truly touched my heart were the beautiful and happy smiles on the children’s faces. Those smiles are like beacons of hope, lighting up our lives and reminding us of the importance of Toybank’s mission. It’s an honour to be part of an organisation that works tirelessly to bring joy to these children. 

In a world filled with so much chaos and uncertainty, the Toy Bank stands as a shining example of the power of kindness and compassion. After all, if children don’t deserve ‘toy-banks’, who does?

Origami workshop leaves children amused 

When I first decided that I would be teaching origami to an entire Grade 5 class for Toybank Turns 19, I admit, I was anxious. As I entered the classroom, I was so nervous that in the introduction, I ended up speaking in over three languages: English, Marathi and Hindi. However, the children did not even notice and smiled at me with their enthusiasm. 

When I started teaching them how to make a butterfly, they all laughed and had a jolly time, and my nervousness faded away, replacing it with happiness. When we started to make a bookmark, I was amazed that almost all of those children knew how to make one. And, when we made the origami box, it surprised me that these children could do such complicated folds so easily. 

I noticed that students were helping each other during the workshop and resolving each other’s doubts. This showed excellent teamwork between them. By the time we started making the tiny butterflies, I felt very relaxed as the children helped me ease into the class. 

I was intrigued when they started adding tiny details on the crafts that made them look more intricate. When the class ended, I realised that I ended up having much more fun than the children did. I realised that spending time with such energised children made me energetic, too. I had a great time playing and teaching children  origami. 

The above articles have been written by Sheetal Kulkarni and Sailee Nigalye, respectively. They are both Toybank volunteers.