July 2022

Good Life and play

In the third of our three-part series, we asked Denmark’s children what makes life good. Here’s what they told us about play

The LEGO Foundation
Children making funny faces

When you’re young, the world’s your playground

We’ve been working with think tank, Tænketanken Mandag Morgen to ask Danish children one big question: what makes a good life?

In the third in our three-part series, we asked children whether play makes life good. Here’s what they told us.


Play makes life fun

It’s no surprise that Danish children (like children all over the world) enjoy playing. They especially love playing with other children, and our report shows the ones who played most were usually happiest.

Play was popular for two reasons:

  1. It’s fun. Children loved the escapism of play - especially laughing, imagining and creating their own worlds.
  2. It’s easier to make friends. Play brings children together, helping them make old friendships stronger and new friendships faster.

Play does a great job at teaching social skills, too. Most children we spoke to thought it was important that everyone had someone to play with. So, they learned to invite others into their games.

But something happens when children turn 12…

When children head into their tweens, they stop talking about play and start hanging out instead. And in children’s eyes, play and ‘hanging out’ with friends have some differences. While play is imaginative, a way to escape into your own universe, stretch your imagination; it is also a chance to make new friends, laugh and have fun together. Qualities very similar to ‘hanging out’.


So has playing really stopped?

Often, children saw the shift to hanging out as a natural part of growing up and saying goodbye to ‘childish’ things. But we spotted the qualities of play in things older children enjoyed. Physical team games, such as football, made it into the ‘hanging out’ list – even though sports stretch the same social, physical and emotional skills as other types of play.

In the classroom, children preferred playful lessons (even if they weren’t making the connection between playing and learning). And when they were with friends, the number one thing children wanted – whether they were playing or hanging out – was ‘having fun and laughing together.’ Sounds pretty playful to us.

Our message to grown-ups: give children time to play

One of the biggest differences between older and younger children, was that older children felt more pressure to stop playing – even though quite a few said they missed it. Children who felt lonelier told us they missed it most.

That pressure to stop playing came as playtime became school time or homework time and the expectation to get good grades grew.

But life doesn’t always need to be so serious. We’d encourage grown-ups to help the older children in their lives find time and space for play. In fact, the laughter, fun and togetherness that comes from playing (yes, and hanging out) could do the whole family good. After all, you’re never too old to play

"“Sometimes you miss [play] a little. I mean fantasy play and not thinking about all sorts of other things. Yes, every so often I miss it.” "

Download our full report

Denmark’s often rated as one of the best places in the world for children to grow up. But how often do politicians and experts include children when they’re debating the issues that affect them? And how often do we call on children when we’re talking about play or designing new ways to make the world more playful? The answer is, not enough. To help us change that, we teamed up with Tænketanken Mandag Morgen to ask children what matters to them: how they feel about school, their families, and the future.

The Good Life - According to Children

Dive into related stories, knowledge and news

Explore the research