Baby & Child was invited to visit the new Lego House in Billund, Denmark, a glittering museum/play space hybrid where everything is about children using their creativity and imagination. There, we learnt about the work of the charitable Lego Foundation, which has done years of research into the benefits of learning through play and how it shapes a young child's brain - an ethos that is key to the Danish way of parenting. 

"When we say play, this can mean many kinds of experiences, from play that gives children the freedom to explore with minimal constraints, to play that is more guided or structured," says John Goodwin, CEO of the Lego Foundation. "Regardless of whether an activity is closer to free play, guided play, or games with a learning goal, a critical requirement is that children have agency, and are supported not directed."

The Lego House

The Lego Foundation has also identified five characteristics of playful experiences that can lead to deeper learning. Firstly the activity must be experienced as joyful (1), it should (2) help children to find meaning in what they are doing or learning, (3) involve active, engaged, minds-on thinking, (4) as well as iterative thinking (experimentation, hypothesis, testing etc), and (5) social interaction:

1. Joyful: 

Children delight in surprises, and research proves infants show more learning after a surprising event than after one that is expected.

2 Actively engaging:

Something that requires full mental immersion, like building a block house.

3. Meaningful:

When a child can relate new experiences to something already known. In play, children often explore what they have seen others do as a way of grasping its meaning.

4. Iterative:

From a toddler trying different ways to build a high tower, to a child realising that the angle of a slide will impact how far a marble shoots across the room, trying out possibilities, testing hypotheses and discovering the next question leads to increased learning.

5. Socially interactive:

By communicating their thoughts to others and sharing ideas, children are able to build a deeper understanding and more powerful relationships.

All five of these play types are on offer for babies, toddlers, and big kids of all ages at The Lego House. See for more information.

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