Play++ is for the 250 million children globally who are at risk of not achieving their development potential. It is a low-cost system for enhancing educational toys with simple iconography to impact on the three key drivers of child development
– stimulation, health and nutrition.

Play++ has been submitted to
The Spindle Award for Best Innovation for Development

Play++: First iteration prototype of shape sorter enhancement

Play++: First iteration prototype of shape sorter enhancement

Anjum’s story

In 30 years Anjum will have two children and work as a doctor at a rural hospital.

But right now she is three years old and lives with her family in rural India. Her future is under threat unless she can get the opportunities she needs to learn in a stimulating and nurturing environment, is adequately fed and can stay healthy. 

By playing with Play++ enhanced toys Anjum has a chance of fulfilling her potential. They are uniquely designed to stimulate her learning while at the same time reminding and motivating her caregivers to keep her healthy and growing.

The problem

A staggering 250 million children will not realize their full development potential; almost half of all children in the world’s poorest countries. Constraints in these early years are catastrophic for their long-term health and wellbeing, influencing their chances of survival, success and productivity into adulthood.

Children need nurturing care to achieve their potential – most importantly care that addresses their health and nutritional needs and provides opportunities for early learning.

Integration of these diverse agendas is as difficult as it is important – most existing child development programmes deliver only one of these strands. Where they attempt to run two or more in parallel, it is often neither efficient nor acceptable, as it can over-burden caregivers already facing immense pressure to ensure their children survive and thrive. Imagine if there was a radical yet simple innovation that could effectively and efficiently integrate these three strands. There is, it is called Play++.

An innovative solution

Play++ is a low-cost, simple and scalable innovation – a system for enhancing toys that already support stimulating play and early learning opportunities for children, to simultaneously support and motivate caregivers to improve child nutrition and health care. 

The Play++ system can be used to enhance any educational toys, including those most commonly found in existing child development toy libraries: toys in the UNICEF Early Child Development kit; mass produced toys made by global manufacturers; and locally made toys

Play++ can cost as little as an additional $0.04 per child. This is enough to enhance toys by adding context appropriate iconography and/or additional materials. For example, adding stickers of key child illness danger signs to a shape sorter so that as the child engages in developmentally stimulating play with this toy, the caregiver learns danger signs of child illness and when these are urgent enough to require immediate medical attention.

Next steps

Women and Children First is looking for funding to continue incubating the Play++ innovation.

Play++ has been subjected to several rounds of extensive prototyping by our team with advice from world leaders in early child development. Initial cost models have also been built and refined. It is now ready for rigorous pilot testing. In this next step we will consult, collaborate and co-create on a small scale with caregivers and children in a developing country setting, to refine Play++ further and make sure it is responding to their needs.

Following this, we will evaluate the effectiveness of Play++ on child development on a larger scale, including refining the business model that will succeed in bringing it to scale. The final step will be to scale up Play++ - supporting widespread adoption of Play++ across developing countries.

Why Play++?

1) Play++ can increase child stimulation, health and nutrition, improving development in the early years.
2) Improved development in the early years increases adult earnings by 25% and every $1.00 invested in early child development can yield a return of $6.00–$17.1.
3) Play++ enhances rather than replaces existing toy libraries used routinely in early child development programmes, costing as little as an additional $0.04 per child.

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