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7 people share their favourite Play Memories with us

Joyful moments of Play in early childhood are important for positive adulthood outcomes.  Through its  work, Toybank — Development through Play is asking for Play to be embedded into our culture and pushing the idea that Play can change society for the better, 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. 

Play is for everyone and so, we asked a few people across age groups, what their favourite play memories are: 

“In the olden days, about 60 years ago, we did not have gadgets such as TV, mobile phones, play stations or even the computer. We made ‘Play’ ourselves. So, after school, we would play some gully (street) games such as lagori, spinning the top, gilli danda, marbles, pachuka, kodi (small shells) and more.” 
Daksha Trivedi, 66; retired 

“Cricket, now that’s a sport! Whether I am watching it or playing it, I love the thrill of hitting a ball out of the boundary, and shouting, “sixer!” However, it’s not just about hitting runs; it’s about strategy, teamwork, and sometimes a bit of sledging with your buddies. It is one of my fondest childhood memories for sure, and the fruit crates that we used as wickets and the occasional commentary done by one of my friends have been ingrained forever in my mind. It is  an amazing game that I used as a stressbuster for some of my hectic school days, and even now, occasionally playing it brings me so much joy.
Prashant Jhaveri,  45; Professional at a healthcare company 

“Tennis is an extremely fun, thrilling and exhilarating sport, which makes me very happy when I play it.”
Madhav Nair, a 14-year-old student 

“We played badminton a lot. It’s like an old friend that’s never let me down. What really gets you is the feeling of freedom. You’re not just smashing a shuttlecock; you’re smashing stress and worries. It’s like a therapy session on that court.”
Jayata Shah, 43; Corporate Consulting 

“Gilli Danda is a game that takes me back to my childhood like a time machine. It’s a classic Indian game, a bit like cricket. All you need is a ‘gilli‘ (a small wooden piece) and a ‘danda‘ (a stick). The thrill of hitting that gilli as far as you can with the danda, it’s like a burst of energy that makes you feel young again. The game involves skill, precision, and a little bit of luck, which keeps you on your toes.”
Mukul Shah, 73; retired professor 

Lagori is a real gem. Playing it can transport you back to the good old days, when smartphones and video games were not a thing. Holding that ball, ready to knock down those stones, it’s a rush of excitement. But what’s really neat is the teamwork it encourages. It’s not just about physical strength; it’s about working together, planning, and outsmarting the other team.”
Bhavna Jhaveri, 67; retired

“I was first introduced to football at a very young age by my father when he used to watch and support Diego Maradona and Argentina’s football team. Football has always been close to my heart from childhood days. I have many fond memories of playing football with my friends on the beach near our home. We used to have so much fun playing in the rain and remember all the crazy celebrations which we used to do after scoring a goal.”
Rahul Desai, 27, working professional


Playful Parenting: How Play enables parents to better connect with children

Play does not mean we need to go out or play with toys. We can do anything because Play is everything.

Play during childhood contributes to children’s development in significant ways. It is socially interactive and a way for children to adopt social norms needed to thrive in society: collaboration, empathy and self-awareness among others. Play is also a means for parents to enrich their relationship with their child. It allows parents to observe their children and understand their actions. When playing together, children are not just having fun, but are building skills of communication and collaboration that will benefit them in the long-run. 

Research has shown that Play causes the prefrontal cortex to become bigger and work faster. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for ‘higher’ brain functions such as intelligence, decision-making, problem-solving, and emotion regulation. It is also associated with the social skills and personality of humans. 

We spoke to a few parents on what different play methods they have adopted and how play has helped them connect with their child.

‘Letting the child explore surroundings is equally important as toys and games’

Meghna Pandit did not send her daughter, Myra, now six-years-old, to a playgroup, as she did not want to restrict her thoughts and learning at that age. “Instead, we focused on self-development through Play,” she says. 

Like all children, Myra was more interested in the packaging of a toy, than the toy itself. When they stepped outside, the mud or sand in the garden would fascinate her more than the swing. “However, we did not stop her and allowed her to explore her surroundings, while keeping a watchful eye that she was not going overboard,” says Meghna.  

In her day-to-day activities, she ensures that Myra is allowed to choose what she wants to play, as this allows children to feel like they have the power and control over what they do. “It is important that parents allow children to explore rather than force toys and games on them,” she says. They also saw to it that there were times when Myra was playing independently, as playing by themselves helps foster children’s imagination and enhances their problem-solving skills. 

To help Myra develop certain skills, Meghna and her partner chose a few games strategically. “We chose games such as Mechanix and Tool Kit to help her develop fine motor skills, and puzzles helped her in developing strategy-based thinking,” she adds. They also ensured that Myra had games, which required her to play in groups in order to help her develop skills such as collaboration and communication. “We used the children’s bowling game for this purpose.” They also broke the barrier and did not differentiate between games based on gender. 

Meghna says that Play has taught Myra to be fair. She did not know that her daughter had developed this skill, until she noticed it during a play session with friends. “In a group game, she ensures that all her friends get equal opportunities.” 

Through her years as a parent, Meghna has realised that Play is vital in a child’s formative years. “It gives them an opportunity to explore and be creative rather than restrict their thoughts in the direction you want,” she says. “This in turn also brings out their character, personality and that’s important as they grow older.

Bonding is essential for a parent and child, and what better way to do that than Play?

‘Play is as important for parents, as it is for children’

Shalvi Mangaokar works from home and ensures that she removes some time every few hours to play with Snitika, her two-year-old daughter. She says that Play is an essential part of a parent’s life, just like it is for a child. “Most parents, including myself, do not always know how to play with a child, so it is important that we read up about the different ways of play and how it benefits the child,” says Shalvi. 

When a parent plays with a child, the parent’s attention is entirely on the child. “Play helps me bond a lot more with Snitika, and also allows me to distract myself from my everyday life,” she adds. 

Shalvi uses a lot of sensory play, as it encourages learning through exploration, curiosity, problem-solving and creativity. “I believe sensory play is a significant part of child development, especially because it works a lot on developing the sensory, cognitive and fine motor skills of children before we get into understanding their left and right brain inclination,” she adds. “It’s important to let them explore things for how they are and grow with them.” 

Play is the best way to learn and it brings out the child in everyone.

Shalvi also says that toys aren’t always a necessity for children to play, because for children everyday objects are also play. When she introduced her toddler to touch-and-feel and other books, her objective was not for her to learn the alphabets, but for her daughter to understand the world of books. “Reading to her is also a form of play, as it allows me to bond with Snitika,” she adds.

As a family, they ensure that they play together everyday. This could include involving her in the day-to-day chores or going outdoors. Together, they also turn everyday objects into imaginary things and role play. Research has shown that role play allows a child to exercise their brain and allow it to use imagination at an early age. It also enriches their language and enhances communication skills. Shalvi also ensures that Snitika is introduced to the traditional games such as hide-and-seek, among others. 

Play has helped her realise that Snitika is someone with sharp observational skills and quick thinking. “When she is involved in an activity, she does not get distracted easily,” says Shalvi. “I have enjoyed watching her be focused.”

‘Play does not mean we need toys, play is everything’

Sarah Stephanos’ eight-year-old daughter Ishani Basu is a play enthusiast and loves outdoor games. “Play is part of our every day, come what may,” says Sarah. Origami, lock-and-key, football, basketball and Brainvita among others are only a few ways they play together. Sarah accompanies Ishani in games such as Catch-And-Cook and Fire in the Mountain, too. 

Since Ishani is a lot into outdoor games, playing football is one of her favourites, and this has also taught her to think strategically, and teamwork. “She very easily becomes the decision-maker and tells the team who will play at what position, depending on their skills. I see that playing football with the team has helped her develop her leadership skills. 

Sarah says that play allows her daughter to explore her creativity and thinking, rather than following a certain style or pattern. “When she was younger, I introduced her to origami as it helps with finger movement and developing certain cognitive skills.”

Through play, Sarah has taught her daughter that it is okay to lose. “Initially, when she played the game snakes and ladders, I used to let her win,” she says. “Since this became a habit, it made me realise that she did not like to lose. Following this, I started letting her lose and taught her that it was okay to lose, while associating the feeling to real life situations.” 

Play has made Ishaani very observant and helped her think out of the box. Sarah narrated one such incident, where Ishani pointed to a dry leaf and told her that the positioning of the leaf made it look like a bird. “Sometimes it fascinates me how children think and I also realised that Ishaani is always thinking out of the box,” Sarah adds. 

As a parent, she has noticed that people often say they have no time to play. “Play does not mean we need to go out or play with toys. We can do anything because Play is everything,” she says. “Bonding is essential for a parent and child, and what better way to do that than Play?”

‘Play brings out the child in everyone, helps us destress’

Priyam Agarwal is a mother of two: 10-year-old Sairah and three-year-old Sriihaan, and lives in a joint family. “When we go out on trips, we always ensure that we play together, even if it’s just cards.”

For Priyam, Play is a way to destress from her everyday life and at the same time, have her children learn constructively. “I ensure that we invest in educational games and toys such as those that help understand science and other subjects of their interest,” she adds. 

As a child, Sairaah was always interested in puzzles and Legos. While the puzzles allowed her to develop strategic thinking and problem-solving, Legos gave her time to explore her creativity. “Her current favourite is Magna tiles. And, Sriihaan is into cars. So, the two of them get together and build different structures such as car garages or a parking lot, using the toys they have,” adds Priyam. 

They also ensure that outdoor activity is part of their play, and since they live close to a beach, getting their hands dirty in the sand is a weekly activity. 

Priyam recalls the Covid-19 induced lockdown and while it was a difficult time for everyone to be locked in their homes, she spoke about how Sairaah was the one that took the lead and came up with games for everyone to play together. “Sairaah would engage us in her games such as charades, pictionary, or just the usual Name-Place-Animal -Thing. Sometimes, she would give us an alphabet and ask us to name countries, cities or food items beginning with that alphabet. Play made lockdown a little less stressful for us,” she says. 

Role play is another important aspect of child development, as it allows the child to develop social and thinking skills. It also helps them make decisions and practice and develop their physical skills. For this, Priyam had bought a doll house for Sairaah when she was five-years-old and today, both her children continue to play with it.  

While Sairaah is now old enough to play by herself or wants to play with her friends more, Priyam ensures that she always makes time to Play and learn with Sriihaan. She says that play is the best way to learn and it brings out the child in everyone. “Play is important because sometimes we are so serious in life, so stressed out, and play helps us destress,” she adds. 

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. 


Play helps children build skills to become creative, engaging adults

Play is the primary way in which young children connect and engage with the world around them. Through play, children may imagine and explore a world they can control, thus overcoming their fears. When playing together, children are not just having fun, but are building skills of communication and collaboration that will benefit them in the long-run. As we move into adulthood, our definitions of play change, but many motivations remain the same, which help us form a framework of play across ages. 

Beginning in the first year of life, play becomes an infant’s primary mode for engaging with others and with the world, setting the bar for interactions with the world to be as pleasurable as play throughout the life-span. Attuned play encourages a child to grow up to be a playful adult who experiences life as a playground. This is not only an expression of healthy development, it is also an inherent characteristic of homosapiens. Unfortunately, not every child is so lucky. According to the original research on attachment styles conducted by psychologist Mary Ainsworth, up to 50 percent of individuals do not have secure attachment experiences. Without attachment security, these children are much more likely to grow up seeing the world as a proving ground, a battleground, or a prison. These worldviews can become self-fulfilling prophecies, establishing feedback loops that engender the world the child expects. 

In the past few decades, research has repeatedly shown that play experiences are not merely fun, nor just a way to pass the time along the way to adulthood. Instead, play has a central role in learning and in preparing you for challenges later on in childhood and through adulthood. The Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky says that play is essential to the growth of what is referred to as “symbolic representation”. The ability of humans to use different types of symbolic representation for culturally significant purposes is the foundation of human thought, culture, and communication. 

Psychologist Sigmund Freud has also correlated early-childhood experiences with mental health in adulthood; but only in the last half century has play been included as one these formative childhood experiences and a factor in healthy development. 

Today’s world is uncertain and constantly changing. Children need skills and mindsets allowing them to step into this uncertainty, create opportunities for themselves and their communities, and learn throughout life. Using the simple, yet compelling words by researchers Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek (2016), realising children’s potential in the face of this uncertainty means supporting them to be “happy, healthy, thinking, caring, and social children who will become collaborative, creative, competent, and responsible citizens tomorrow”. 

In playful experiences, children tap into a breadth of skills at any one time. A game of hide-and-seek helps them to manage feelings about the unknown, while also helping them to think about what other people know and see. Beyond enjoyment, playful experiences have the potential to give children the skills they will need in the future that go beyond facts. Playful experiences appear to be a powerful mechanism that help children not only to be happy and healthy in their lives today, but also develop the skills to be the creative, engaged, lifelong learners of tomorrow.

The benefits of playfulness in adults overlaps in many ways with those for children, including enhanced creativity, humour, motivation, and positive effect. In addition, playfulness predicts numerous health benefits in both children and adults. Research shows that playful adults live an average of 10 years longer than their less playful peers. Perhaps most significant of the benefits conferred by a playful approach to life is its relationship to stress reduction and coping strategies in adults.

The real world, in any case, is often a politically violent and an economically insecure place—anything but a playground. Is it possible that the condition of our world both reflects and reinforces a prevailing degree of attachment insecurity. If so, the greatest hope for interrupting this dangerous feedback loop is to support and restore a basic sense of security generated, reflected, and reinforced by attuned play. Not only does play provide critical resources for dealing with stress and engendering well-being as adults, but repeated play can also rewire the brain, establishing and reinforcing the neural pathways that lead to the development of playfulness.

Source: Origins of Play and Playfulness, Gwen Gordon; Lego Foundation, learning through play, nov 2017; Guided Play:Where Curricular Goals Meet a Playful Pedagogy, Deena Skolnick Weisberg, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and RobertaMichnick Golinkoff, 2013; Learning through play, Lego Foundation, February 2019; The future of play, Lego Learning Institute


Building a world of Play at Toybank

I dream that Play integrates into our way of life. That ‘Play is food for the child’s mind. Let it not go hungry’, becomes something to live by. 

– Shweta Chari, Co-founder, CEO, Toybank

It’s been a while since I wrote something first hand so I thought I would give you an update of all the ‘play’ful things’ that we have been up to at Toybank! 

I kept trying to write and wanted to let all of you know of all the prodigious happenings at our end and how the lives of all the children and teachers we have been working with, are getting transformed, but somehow I couldn’t write. But rest assured, our work is running literally in 5th gear, like there’s no tomorrow!

As always, in the earnest need of wanting to stay authentic to my feelings and wanting to bring out my best to share with you, it was getting hard! The last few years have been tough, challenging and extremely overwhelming to say the least. (as it has for most of us that have walked through this tough pandemic phase). But here I am now, steadily emerging, maybe a tad bit wiser and definitely fully charged up, with a sense of determination like I have never felt before!

Here goes, brace for impact as I always say! 

The years 2020, 2021, 2022 and now 2023 and 2024 are historically going to be defined as the landmark years for us in the foundation. More on that will follow in my subsequent writeups, but for now, let’s focus on June 2023. 

Quick data to contextualise:

  • We are now working with close to 75,000 children and 5,000+ teachers
  • Across 7 active districts in Maharashtra
  • Our current team size is 44 members
  • And we have close to 600 active volunteers engaging with us through our various play programmes

In June 2023, I was able to represent our organisation at the International Play Association conference held in Glasgow, Scotland. This was a magical experience, listening to people talk about everything Play for a whole week! We had conversations and discussions that were far beyond ‘Why Play is important’ and instead directly focused on, ‘How can we build entire programmes, communities, cities and even countries with Play at its central core?’ I felt at home with all the beautiful ‘Play People’ all around me. I realised how ahead of our times our foundation is in a way when we think about Play, and how we have been driving for Play centric programmes for the last almost two decades. I felt proud, humbled and super excited through this entire experience at the conference!

Read about it here.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai, as part of World Play Day, on May 28, we organised an Ink and Doodle workshop in collaboration with our dear Play Ambassador, Arzan Khambatta, renowned architect and sculptor. Our children were left in wonder and amusement, when the workshop helped them think outside the box. Witness their excitement here. We also made a new friend in the foundation, Karan Shah, whose art focuses on looking at everyday objects through a different lens. 

He left the children in wonder, and showed them how to think from different perspectives, to think beyond their imagination when looking at everyday objects. This workshop was held at a one-of-kind store called the Turn Around Shop that allowed us to use their space for free and not only that, but supported the entire event end-to-end for us, thus marking the start of a gigantic partnership with these amazing folks.

And something else happened, too! Our foundation has been listed on the Charities America Foundation platform! This is super exciting for us, especially when we are bang in the middle of a massive growth trajectory. Now, folks in America can make tax exempt donations to us till November 2023.  It would be amazing if you could champion this for us: Share this news with your friends and people you know and invite them to support us.  

Thank you for guiding us, being with us and quietly pushing our cause through all this time.

I dream that ‘Play’ integrates into our way of life. That “Play is food for the child’s mind. Let it not go hungry,” becomes something to live by. 

And that we realise the ‘Right to Play’ in India, well within our lifetime. 

Much Love,
Shweta Chari 

Shweta Chari is the co-founder and CEO of Toybank – Development through Play 


Toybank’s Play2Learn programme benefits children in Mumbai’s Govandi settlements

In a study conducted in 2012, it was found that Toybank’s Play2Learn programme sessions brought about improvements in children living in informal settlements of Govandi, Mumbai in India

The study was conducted over a period of three months with 28 children. Through the play sessions, these children were closely monitored over a period of three months by the teachers at Apnalaya’s centres. The teachers were provided sheets, which were based on international play therapy indicators, and the data was divided under the categories: social and emotional skills, life skills, motor skills, fine motor skills and language skills.

The findings of the study revealed that three months after the play sessions, the children showed a 23.46% rise in social and  emotional skills; 25.95% rise in life skills; 33.33% improvement in motor skills; 29.03% improvement in fine motor skills and 21.17% rise in language skills. 

In addition, Toybank also conducted a quick and easy measure of attendance levels in government schools in Mumbai. After our Play2Learn programme sessions were introduced, there was an increase in attendance. The attendance increased by 45%. Children, who were missing school on Saturdays started attending their classes owing to these play sessions. 

It was also noticed that there was a 50% increase in the number of children who performed well in English, in their scholarship exam. The games that helped them the most were: Opposites, Similar word, Word builder, Sentence maker.

While India assures children of their right to education, health and protection, another basic right — Right to Play — remains unrecognised, undervalued and unadopted. Over the years, Toybank has focused on ensuring children have access to play through its Play2Learn Programme. 

Source: 3-month preliminary assessment study by The Opentree Foundation’s flagship project, Toybank – Development Through Play with Apnalaya  in August – September – October  2012


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.


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)


‘Adult memories of childhood play’ study: Path to brighter futures

In the 1980s, researcher Dr. Bergen and researchers Wen Liu and Geng Liu surveyed American and Chinese college students about what they remembered as the most important play experiences of their elementary years. 

The study, published in the International Journal of Educology in 1997, revealed that the majority of American college students remembered pretend play as the most significant play activity (52%), while the majority of Chinese students recalled games with rules as the most important activity (59%). Chinese students were more likely to say that their childhood play affected their personality (58%), while American students were more likely to say that play influenced their choice of vocation or hobbies as an adult (41% and 34%, respectively).

Even now I love to imagine myself doing something, then I set a goal and do it.

American students typically credited pretend play for their positive adult abilities

Despite these interesting cultural differences, the majority of Chinese and American students stated that their primary motivation for play was “fun.”

Games have made me brave, decisive, self-confident and able to deal with things quickly.

Chinese college student revealed how playing games with rules resulted in positive personality traits as an adult

There is no denying that play is fun, and certainly fun is its biggest draw. However, children also develop critical cognitive, emotional, social, and physical skills as they play. Research has shown that play contributes to proper brain development. The skills children learn through play in the early developmental years set the stage for future learning and success from the kindergarten classroom to the workplace.

Every day hundreds of children across Maharashtra embark on their journey of joyful discovery through Toybank’s play programmes. They are learning how to learn, how to get along with each other and deal with life’s situations all through the power of play.

Source: The Strong National Museum of Play. (n.d.). When I Was a Kid: Adult Memories of Play 


In Jamaica, playing is a serious business: Early childhood stimulation study

We had the simple idea that if we get mothers to play more with their children, it would help the children’s brain to develop and they would catch up with their fortunate peers.
– Christine Powell, Senior Lecturer, University of the West Indies
  • More than 20 years ago, researchers in Jamaica sought to boost stunted, disadvantaged children by teaching their mothers to stimulate them using talk and play.
  • An impact evaluation allowed researchers to measure the programme’s effectiveness by comparing beneficiary children with similarly disadvantaged children whose mothers didn’t get the programme.
  • The children have been tracked ever since and the results have been remarkable. Watch the video below. 


The simple two-year intervention laid a strong foundation for:
Increased cognitive and social skills
Higher grades & reduced drop-outs
Higher earnings
98% of the children were employed at the age of 22
94% were empowered to break the cycle of poverty with full-time jobs
Reduction in anxiety and depression