October 2022

World Mental Health Day: How play can support children’s mental health

This World Mental Health Day, let’s talk about the children

Children are living through the global pandemic. Children also watch the news - and they’re super sensitive to the world around them. So it’s no surprise that many parents and teachers today are worried about young children’s mental health. Much as we’d love to, we can’t swoop in and fix everything. But we can give children time and space to develop skills that help them cope with fear, loss and change.


Play helps children build up their social and emotional toolkit

There’s plenty of evidence for it. One study found children who learn to play well with their peers by age three are likely to enjoy better mental health later in childhood. While another reported that children who spend more time playing adventurously have lower symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Why? Children who learn through play develop new skills. They grow their confidence and resilience by setting the rules of their own games. They can speak their mind and say what’s wrong. And they have greater control over their emotional responses. These are powerful tools to protect their mental health.

The tougher the world gets, the more power there is in play

Play can benefit all children, no matter where they are in the world. And it should also be their right.

That’s why we’ve just given an extra US$13.6 million towards rebuilding and reshaping Ukraine’s education system. We’ve been working with the Ministry of Education and Science there for 12 years, helping to transform Ukraine’s approach to learning through play. With this new funding, local experts will create a national module for teacher training institutions on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network, which will be rolled out through the 2022-23 academic year.

And children who play more worry less

Make-believe play can help children make sense of the unknown. That’s why we partnered with the Odense University Hospital in Denmark to design LEGO models of MRI scanners, and donated and shipped 600 of them to hospitals around the world. While scans are painless, they can be loud and confusing. And getting a clear scan means lying very still for up to an hour: a tall order for a scared child. But when children play with a model before going in, they get a sense of what to expect – and a much calmer and more positive hospital experience.

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We can’t leave children’s mental health to chance

We’re calling for radical transformation. We want every child around the world to have a chance to have meaningful, play-based learning in classrooms or at home. So they can hone skills that set them up for a brighter future. That change can start with you. If you’d like inspiration to help children cope with stress and change through play, sign up to one of our courses on social-emotional learning!

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Ready to play?

When children play, they learn. They solve problems, think strategically, relate to others, and manage life’s ups and downs. Play helps children learn how to learn – and love learning. We've gathered some of our favourite games. You can play them anywhere – using things you find at home.

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Dive deeper into knowledge and stories about play and wellbeing

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