The Unlimited Child

Lego foundation

Johannesburg, 27 March 2023 – The Unlimited Child (TUC), one of South Africa’s leading Early Childhood Development (ECD) organisations, today announced that it has been chosen by The LEGO Foundation as their research and implementation partner in Africa as part of the pilot of its Playful Learning Across the Years (PLAY) toolkit.

In South Africa, it is estimated that around 64% of children who start Grade 1 will not finish school. This harsh reality is due to the fact that so many of our youth do not have access to early learning which offers a critical window of opportunity to shape the trajectory of a child’s educational development and build a foundation for their future learning.

The foundation of early learning is cemented when children are given the opportunity to play with toys purposefully designed to develop child outcomes including but not limited to cognitive, emotional, gross and fine motor skills in the first six years of their development.

The foundation of early learning
Learning Through ECD Play

Measuring Learning Through Play

Measurement is a key ingredient in deepening our understanding of what learning through play looks like in different contexts and learning settings. That is why LEGO Foundation developed The Playful Learning Across the Years (PLAY) toolkit.

Environments that promote play, child-centred learning, and exploration engage children as active agents in their own learning journeys. Changing well-established ways of teaching and learning is challenging, and ongoing support is needed for practitioners and parents to be able to fully adopt more playful, innovative approaches. The ability to better assess and reflect on playful learning initiatives will help move the field forward in ensuring that children develop a breadth of skills and reach their full potential.

The Playful Learning Across the Years (PLAY) toolkit has been developed and piloted. As part of this pilot and research of this measurement, The Unlimited Child has been chosen together with counterparts in Asia (India & Bangladesh), South America (Colombia) as well as global academic research institutes, to develop and test the tools needed to demonstrate the impact of playful pedagogies on children’s holistic outcomes across age groups, settings, and geographies. The tools are designed to be affordable, valid and feasible ways to measure how adults support children’s engagement in learning, and to support practitioners with their playful practices.

The impact

“The impact that this partnership will have on quality early learning outcomes for children under the age of six is life changing”, says Candice Potgieter, CEO of The Unlimited Child. “Children learn best through play. It’s an essential part of early learning but so few children have access to high quality and structured play activities that sets them up for future educational success. In every child’s life, a critical learning foundation needs to be established by the age of six.

Key to this partnership is the standardised measurement tool that can be used globally upon completion to better assess and reflect on playful learning initiatives that will help move the field forward in ensuring that children are able reach their full potential. For The Unlimited Child this is necessary as we embark on our expansion beyond the borders of South Africa into Africa as a continent, to make sure no children is left behind. We are just not willing to let that happen on our watch because their future starts now.”

The Unlimited Child is the largest early childhood development programme in South Africa. We provide a high quality, sustainable and holistic early childhood development programme having reached over 1.5 Million children in impoverished communities throughout South, Africa, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. In doing so, we have trained and mentored over 8000 ECD practitioners in a skills development programme and transformed and equipped close to 4000 ECD Centres with age appropriate specifically designed toys and resources.

the impact of ECD
Children learning in a classroom with a teacher

No child gets left behind

“We know that if we don’t pitch our goals high, children will be left behind. If a child does not have access to ECD, their potential in life will be a 3/10 with no possibility of ever reaching a 10/10, and no teacher in the world will be able to change this. Our work is urgent and that is why we will continue relentlessly to work with likeminded philanthropists, corporate funders and non-profit foundations such as The LEGO Foundation to provide access to quality early learning programmes so that by exponential growth ALL children can benefit fully”, concludes Potgieter.

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