Learning through play is for all ages

By Maria Creamer | August 9, 2023 | The Americas | Education

Editor’s note: This blog is also available in Spanish

A tiny robotic car zoomed across the floor, notes floated from guitar strings, and eyes peered through a cardboard camera lens while laughter and cheers erupted around the room. The culprits of all this fun? Grown adults who brought out their inner child when grassroots leaders from Brazil, Colombia, and Guatemala showcased their “learning through play” methodologies.

The Partnership to Educate All Kids (PEAK) initiative, supported by the LEGO Foundation, provides financial support and capacity development to 66 community-based organizations, reaching 100,000 children around the world who are facing barriers to educational success that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June 2023, leaders from the PEAK Latin America cohort met for the first time in Medellín, Colombia, to strengthen their network as leaders in this space and exchange learnings and reflections from their work.





PEAK partners holding one-worded signs to show their feelings and reflections. © GFC

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, schools closed their doors, stunting the educational development and growth of children and young people worldwide. Busy classrooms turned into virtual classes, which carry their own set of challenges, and not all students had access to virtual tools and learning to continue their education.

The programmatic functions and approaches of many grassroots organizations transformed to meet the rising needs of children and young people – particularly in continuing their basic education. The PEAK network, made up of grassroots leaders who didn’t necessarily have the traditional resources or space of a classroom, developed innovative approaches to learning, including learning through play.

Three years later, the world is still working to comprehend the significant impact of the global pandemic, but it’s clear that through the power of the inner child in all of us, there’s something special in this learning through play approach.

During this convening, a day was carved out for the leaders to show just how meaningful – and magical – this approach can be. Bring out your inner child and take part in three of those sessions.


On the ground were two robotic cars and a plastic sheet lined out as a soccer field. The curiosity and interest from the grassroots leaders were palpable.

Leaders from PEAK partner MARE began with some exploratory questions. What is robotics? How does this work? As the MARE team explained the technical functions of the robotic car and what makes it “go,” the participants in the convening were learning about design, innovation, and accessibility.

“He puts it into words that I can understand. Who knew I’d be understanding the basic functions of machine learning?” said one grassroots leader.

The robotic cars from MARE's workshop. © GFC

The hands-on activity was a robotic soccer match, with grown adults competing to get a chance to toggle away at joysticks and push buttons to accelerate, reverse, and spin.


The team from Músicas de la Tierra started small, kicking off with a musical Simon Says – asking participants to repeat musical hums and sounds. The group felt silly moving their mouths and tongues into such funny sounds, but it broke the ice.

Then, cutouts of musical notes were placed on the floor. This note means this, the Músicas de la Tierra team explained; this note means that. As Wesley Chavaco, the organization’s Coordinator, pointed to the notes, the group collectively began to sing.

PEAK partners enjoying the music session and playing recorders. © GFC

With a huge smile on his face, Wesley said, “Look at that. You’re reading music. You’re learning.”

Beats from a drum, strings from a guitar, and whistles from a recorder were gradually introduced, giving this new learning something tactile. Participants began to shed any signs of silliness or awkwardness, learning through play.


Team members from Associação Núcleo de Educação Comunitária do Coroadinho (NEDUC) pulled out a small rectangular cardboard box, made into a camera obscura.

Marcos holding the cardboard camera obscura for a fellow PEAK partner. © GFC

Marcos Lago, NEDUC’s Social Educator, explained that when light from an object enters a camera lens, built-in sensors (whether digital or film) process the image. The cardboard camera obscura provided a hands-on understanding of the process in action. As the grassroots leaders peered into the box, it was as though they shrank and were physically placed inside the camera to better understand its function.

A long line formed behind the camera as everyone eagerly waited for the chance to learn through play.

GFC and the PEAK partners are diving into their second year together with energy, enthusiasm, and equal parts unanswered questions and creativity to learn while doing, or better put, while playing.

Learn more about the PEAK initiative here.

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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