Playful Parenting

Parents and other primary caregivers are children’s first, most important and life-long teachers. The parent-child relationship is unique and significant.  This bond is established and cemented through consistent positive interactions which are critical to two major areas of child development: skills development and emotional wellbeing.  Caregivers have the power to mold their children’s brains and set them up for a positive life trajectory and the first three years of a child’s life are a particularly important time for learning and development.

The brain develops rapidly in this period of a child’s life, producing more than a million neural connections each second. By building nurturing bonds and strong relationships, parents and/or primary caregivers help children feel safe to take risks and explore the world, which in turn allows them to build new neural connections in their brain.  Positive and stimulating interactions between children and their parents and/or primary caregivers, especially through play, are critical to healthy development.  Evidence from many, diverse countries indicates that when parents and caregivers engage in quality play and positive interactions, it results in improved learning outcomes that continue throughout children’s lives.

Play is a crucial, fun and an easy way for parents to support children’s development.  It provides the context for meaningful exchanges between caregivers and children that can reduce stress and anxiety and create shared experiences and emotions that build strong neural connections in the brain.  Parent-child play also supports three out of five components of the Nurturing Care Framework that children need to survive and thrive: responsive caregiving, opportunities for early learning, and security and safety.

This thematic page includes resources about parenting and in particular playful parenting for implementing agencies, policy makers, donors and most importantly for parents and caregivers!

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General Websites

UNICEF – Parenting Hub

Arab Network for Early Childhood Development (ANECD) Parenting Hub: Ujouha,

Reach Up and Learn package –

Care for Child Development package –

Parenting for Lifelong Health’s,

LEGO Foundation Playlist

Vroom  –

Vroom: Everyone has what it takes to be a Brain Builder!,

Vroom: Brain building 101: What every parent should know,

Cambridge University, Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) Hub: Resource Library Pandemic Resources

Play Pieces

UNICEF Caring for the Caregiver,


Briefs and Reports

LEGO Foundation, What we mean by Playful Parenting in the Early Years,

Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan University, Institute for Human Development, The Role of the Health Sector in Advancing Nurturing Care: AKDN Syria’s Implementation of Care for Child Development,


Program Guidance/Courses/Applications

Harvard Center on the Developing Child, Building Babies’ Brains Through Play: Mini Parenting Master Class

Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan University, Institute for Human Development, Working with Parents of Young Children,

Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan University, Institute for Human Development, Designing Parenting Programs,

Reach Up and Learn: Parent Manual Activities for children up to age 3 years,

Vroom Parenting Application,

The Best Start in Life: Early Childhood Development for Sustainable Development MOOC,



Cong Z., Cubbin, C. & Ci, Q. (2019) “Parenting stress and mother– child playful interaction: the role of emotional support”, Journal of Family Studies, 25:2, 101-115,

Landry, S. Smith, K. and Swank, P. (2003), “The Importance of Parenting During Early Childhood for School-Age Development”, Developmental Neuropsychology, 24:2-3, 559-591,

Wilton, K. et al (2017), “Parenting in Displacement: Adapting Vroom for Displaced Syrian Families”,

Jeong, J. et al, (2021), “Parenting interventions to promote early child development in the first three years of life: A global systematic review and meta-analysis”, PLOS Medicine,



ECDAN and ANECD (2021), A Celebration of Parents Around the World and a Call to Action to Support Them

ECDAN, ANECD and Promundo (2021), Father’s Day Blog

ECDAN and ANECD (2021), Parenting interventions to promote early child development in the first three years of life: A global systematic review and meta-analysis,

Shah, S. and James, S. (2021), The transformative power of parents – AKF launches two new courses to underscore the vital role that parents play in child development

Laverty, C. (2019), Playful Parenting in the early years, LEGO Foundation,

Cohen, L. (2018), Tips for Playful Parenting, LEGO Foundation,

Ramchandani, P., Fathers and Play,


Video Clips

Father-son conversation, Part 1 –

Father-son conversation, Part 2 –


Recording of Past Events

CCD Implementation in East Africa: Experiences from Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia

Covid-19 & Parent and Caregiver Support in Emergencies

ISSA, The Role of Parenting Support Programs in Promoting and Sustaining Playful Parenting,

Aga Khan Foundation, The transformative power of parents: AKF launches two new courses to underscore the viral role that parents play in child development,

The International Step-by-Step Association (ISSA), UNICEF Serbia, Lego Foundation, Supportive ‘’orbit(s)’’ around family playful parenting – An engine for creating supportive family-centered networks at the local level,

ISSA, UNICEF, Lego Foundation, “Caring for Caregivers: A Path Towards Playful Parenting”,

The Nurturing care framework for early childhood development: A framework for helping children SURVIVE and THRIVE to TRANS- FORM health and human potential builds upon state-of-the art evidence of how child development unfolds and of the effective policies and interventions that can improve early childhood de- velopment.