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BRAC Play Labs

Facilitating learning, development, and healing through the transformative power of play

Play Labs bring joyful, play-based early learning to young children ages three through five. We know that when children play, they also learn, heal, and thrive. Play Labs combine vibrant, fun play spaces, engaging facilitators, and a love for local culture with an evidence-based curriculum to give all children the early start they deserve.

Hall of Fame


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Target group
Students early
April 2023
BRAC is committed to ensuring that all children can access quality playful early learning opportunities and that all caregivers have the tools and resources to support them. Play Labs are an invaluable opportunity to reach children and families with quality early learning opportunities, even in the most hard-to reach and resource-constrained contexts.

About the innovation

Play Labs: Facilitating learning and development through the transformative power of play

The importance of early childhood development

Early childhood is a critical time in a child’s life. Research confirms that quality early childhood development (ECD) programming, and particularly play-based learning, during the first five years of a child's life can set up a child for lifelong success. But in low-resource contexts, children disproportionately lack quality ECD opportunities. BRAC's flagship ECD model, Play Labs, promote children's development and help the most vulnerable children grow into adaptable, resilient, socially and emotionally literate adults who can navigate the adversities of poverty and conflict later in life.

What are Play Labs?

Play Labs bring together beautiful play spaces, locally made play materials, engaging Play Leaders, a world class curriculum, and caregivers and communities to create welcoming, joyful environments where children can learn and develop.

BRAC equips passionate, engaging facilitators from local communities as Play Leaders who lead playful, child-centered activities. Our flagship Play Curriculum; designed by international experts in child development, education, and mental health; supports children's physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development, and activities are adapted to reflect local traditions and heritage. Play Labs also engage caregivers and communities and empower families with knowledge on early childhood development.

A recent two-year study in Bangladesh revealed that Play Labs improved children's development outcomes, reduced gaps between children's outcomes, and equipped parents with the knowledge and resources to support their children's development.

Adapting and scaling the Play Labs approach

In recent years, BRAC has adapted its flagship Play Lab approach in diverse settings—from South Asia to East Africa, from community spaces to government schools to crisis contexts—to demonstrate the transformative power of playful learning.

  • Humanitarian Play Labs: BRAC adapted its Play Labs approach for humanitarian and crisis contexts to enable children affected by crisis to learn, heal, and grow through play. In humanitarian contexts, the model has a particular focus on providing psychosocial support and early learning and stimulation opportunities that address trauma and provide a sense of routine and normalcy while supporting children's healthy development. In Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Humanitarian Play Labs reach Rohingya refugee children and children living in the host community ages 0-6 with centre-based and home-based playful learning opportunities. BRAC is also developing Humanitarian Play Labs in the context of the Rhino and Imvebi refugee camps in Uganda, drawing upon past experience implementing the flagship Play Lab model in Uganda and Humanitarian Play Labs in Bangladesh.

  • Remote Play Labs:During the onset of COVID-19, BRAC adapted our flagship Play Lab model and Play Curriculum for accessible low-tech remote learning modalities, helping children build better futures at a crucial stage of their development amid the pandemic. Our Pashe Achhi (or "Beside You") telecommunications model in Bangladesh reaches children and their caregivers through 20 minute phone calls every week, using a script developed by BRAC’s in-house team of play-based curriculum developers and psychologists, and an ECD helpline uses interactive voice response messages and live helpline staff to provide caregivers with information and guidance on ECD. Remote Play Labs also deliver play-based learning content over national and community radio stations to reach millions of additional children. Beyond the context of the pandemic, we are continuing to scale our Remote Play Labs in low-resource and hard-to-reach contexts.

What's next

BRAC is committed to ensuring that all children can access quality playful early learning opportunities and that all caregivers have the tools and resources to support them. Play Labs are an invaluable opportunity to reach children and families with quality early learning opportunities, even in the most hard-to reach and resource-constrained contexts. We aim to continue adapting and scaling Play Labs in new contexts through partnerships with governments and others involved in promoting early childhood development globally to achieve a world where every child has access to quality, playful early learning opportunities that support their development.

Get involved

BRAC has developed the PlayBook, an open source toolkit to share the Play Lab approach and learning within the education and early childhood development communities. Our goal is to equip others with the tools to learn from, adopt, and contextualize Play Labs in their own countries and communities. Visit to learn more and download the PlayBook.

About BRAC

Founded in Bangladesh in 1972 as a small relief effort, BRAC is now a world-class global development organization working in more than a dozen countries around the world. Ranked the number one NGO in the world for the eighth time in 2022, BRAC runs programs in education, youth empowerment, health care, agriculture, humanitarian response, and more. Play Labs build on the organization's expertise as one of the world’s leading education providers for marginalized children, with more than 12 million graduates of its pre-primary and primary programs.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

The innovation presents a low cost, high quality early learning model that has already impacted lots of children from a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh and can be scaled in other impoverished communities and refugee camps. Children learn and develop creativity through play.

HundrED Academy Reviews

Scalability is high due to simple approach through play as well as innovative and mindful use of spaces. Impact comes from incorporating practices that support all round development of the young child and opportunities of employment for the community.

Concept of the play lab and using available resources to bring Holistic development increases the impact of this innovation.
Flexible implementation strategies, use of available resources works for scaling of this model.

- Academy member
Academy review results
Read more about our selection process


New Research Underscores the Power of Play-Based Learning | BRAC USA
BRAC USA | The power of community as a catalyst to tackle disrupted learning
BRAC USA | Tens of thousands of boys in Bangladesh were forced into work during the pandemic. Now school is resuming without them.
BRAC USA | Opinion: International Women’s Day, 2022 Celebrating the Transformative Impact of Women as Non-Formal Educators
BRAC USA | International Women's Day 2022: Breaking the Cycle
BRAC USA | Opinion: There's a better way to reach millions of unschooled children
BRAC USA | Study: Play-based early childhood development initiative in Bangladesh ensures all children are equally developmentally equipped to benefit from school
BRAC USA | Charting a pathway to scale through government: Adapting a girls' empowerment program to a public school setting
BRAC USA | Collaborating to navigate COVID-19 recovery
BRAC USA | Early childhood development should be a global priority
Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Infants and Young Children
Reimagining Education Technology Solutions to Address Poverty in the Global South amid Covid-19
Overcoming the Learning Divide: Assessing What Students Missed During School Closings for COVID-19
Learning in a pandemic: 4 tips for parents and caregivers with young children at home | BRAC USA
BRAC Humanitarian Play Lab: when playing becomes healing | Early Childhood Matters
Devon McLorg on Bringing Playful Learning Experiences to Children Affected by Violence and Trauma | HundrED
Every child deserves a childhood | BRAC | Short Film
Education in Emergencies: Exploring Innovation, Opportunities, and Challenges | Open Society Foundations
Opinion: Refugee children need play | Devex
Lego And 'Sesame Street' Unite With $100M Project To Benefit Refugee Children | Forbes
Humanitarian Play Labs: Helping Rohingya children heal and learn through play | Relief Web
Hope in a world gone mad | Education Cannot Wait
Learning through play with LEGO Foundation and Sesame Street | BRAC | Video
BRAC opens first two-storey learning centre for Rohingya children in Kutupalong | BRAC | Press release
What learning looks like in the midst of a humanitarian crisis | BRAC | Short Documentary
Keeping the kids in school: 200 learning centres for Rohingya children | The Good Feed
What do safe spaces in a humanitarian crisis look like? - The Good Feed
Show more

Implementation steps

Learn more

Our Power of Play microsite contains the latest information, research, and media about the Play Lab approach. Visit to learn more about our early childhood development programming.

Download the PlayBook
BRAC has developed the PlayBook, a comprehensive toolkit that implementers can use to adapt our flagship Play Labs approach. The toolkit includes our Play Curriculum, Parenting Curriculum, Play Leader Training Manual, and more. Download the PlayBook at
Contact us
For more information or to learn more about partnering with BRAC or implementing Play Labs, please contact us at

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