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A refugee- and community-led early childhood education program incorporating play-based learning, peacebuilding, and mindfulness.

Little Ripples

location_on Chad
Little Ripples is a replicable and sustainable early childhood education program that empowers refugees and communities affected by humanitarian crises to implement child-centered, quality, and comprehensive pre-primary education that supports the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of children ages three to five.
I like being a teacher because I get to go to work in the morning and I feel I have a responsibility. I hear the children call me teacher, they sing songs with me and welcome me, and it makes me feel good.

Sumiya - Little Ripples Teacher, Chad


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2022

HundrED 2021

HundrED 2020

Key figures

Innovation Overview

3 - 5
Age Group
12 890
3 135
Updated on November 12th, 2021
about the innovation

What is Little Ripples?

Levels of displacement are the highest on record; in early 2019, 79.5 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced, of whom nearly 26 million hold refugee status – over half of them under the age of 18. Additionally, an estimated 87 million children under age 7 have spent their entire lives in conflict zones. iACT co-created the Little Ripples program with refugees to address the needs of young children affected by humanitarian emergencies and forgotten crises.

The history of Little Ripples begins with iACT’s work in eastern Chad to support Darfuri refugees, documenting life in the refugee camps to help spur global action. The iACT team asked the Darfuri refugee population what services they needed and wanted most – the answer was support for young children. As a result, over the next three years, iACT worked with experts and practitioners in the areas of child development, early learning, trauma recovery, psychology, and mindfulness to develop the Little Ripples program.

Little Ripples is designed to be refugee and community-led in order to build long-term capacity and address the unique needs of children and communities affected by trauma, violence, displacement, and uncertainty. Refugees and community members learn about the Little Ripples curriculum and approach through an in-depth, participatory teacher training and adapt the curriculum and program activities to their culture and context. Program activities can be adapted to take place in schools, child-friendly spaces, community centers, and homes (often referred to as Ponds). Ideally, each learning space employs two teachers to care for and instruct up to 45 children.

The Little Ripples curriculum was co-created with refugees and developed in collaboration with experts; ensuring that the program includes best-practices for refugee children and those who have experienced trauma and hardship. The curriculum is grounded in play-based education and incorporates social-emotional learning, empathy development, positive behavior management, peacebuilding, and mindfulness. If children are in an emotionally and physically safe space and learning through play, then they will learn. Little Ripples can be used alongside any academic pre-primary curriculum as a methodology.

Over the last five years, Little Ripples has expanded into four refugee camps in eastern Chad, reaching 6,200 Darfuri refugee children and training 173 refugee teachers. Little Ripples has also been adapted and implemented with Central African refugees in Cameroon and the Central African Republic, Burundian refugees in Tanzania, and a diverse team from such countries as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Congo in Greece – training 220 teachers and reaching more than 8,000 children. 

iACT seeks to expand the impact of Little Ripples through partnerships with refugee communities, community-based organizations, and international NGOs.


HundrED Academy Review

Programs like Little Ripples are the need of the hour. With so much of socio economic unrest around the world, collapsing economies in third world countries , these programs can bring about life sustaining changes for a vast majority of the population.

- HundrED Academy Member

I was touched by the humanism of this innovation,I had the privilege of seeing the amount of work and dedication in "Little Ripples".it's a consistent innovation, even more so it affects a considerable number of refugee children.

- HundrED Academy Member
Little Ripples has created an early childhood model that is replicable and sustainable for refugee communities. By empowering the communities with tools and resources to effectively deliver quality education for their children, they are having a profound effect on the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of children ages three to five.
Academy review results
High Impact
Low Scalability
High Impact
High Scalability
Low Impact
Low Scalability
Low Impact
High Scalability
Read more about our selection process

See this innovation in action

Tools for Teaching
iACT distributes Ripples Boxes for teachers that include versatile teaching and learning materials. In Little Ripples teacher training, participants are taught how to use the materials in diverse ways to support learning and to have fun. The items in the boxes are adapted based on the needs, language, and culture of each context.
Food for Thought
Whenever possible, the Little Ripples program tries to ensure that there is an accompanying meal program. Children learn best when they are healthy and are receiving adequate nutrition. The Little Ripples program focuses on the holistic well-being of children: physically, mentally, emotionally, and cognitively. 
Mindful Moments
Little Ripples teachers are encouraged to start everyday with a mindfulness activity, but also to incorporate mindful moments throughout the day as classroom management strategies, transition activities, or simply a fun way to re-focus attention.
Learning Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be a tricky thing to get the hang of, especially when it's a super foreign concept to your culture. But little by little, practice after practice, we find that teachers and students eventually grasp and love these practices. We've seen first-hand how using mindfulness in the classroom is a useful tool for classroom management, and also how it helps children and teachers outside of the classroom to process and cope with stress.
Little Ripples in Cameroon
In January 2019, iACT launched the Little Ripples program in Cameroon, in partnership with JRS. We spent 3 wonderful weeks training teachers and cooks in the iACT curriculum and had a blast doing it!
Health & Hygiene Promotion
The Little Ripples program ensures that teachers model and teach good hygiene practices for their students - for example washing your hands, using the latrine, and coughing/sneezing into your elbow - in order to keep them healthy in mind and body and to instill good practices as they grow up.
Creating a Welcoming Space
Teachers are supported to ensure their learning spaces - whether it's at home, in a school, in a child-friendly space, or just an outdoor area - is safe, welcoming, colorful, and conduscive to learning and having fun.
Learning to Play
Play-based learning is not always intrinsic for teachers. That is why iACT always build's in lots of time for participants to practice playing and have fun in teacher trainings. Teachers need to get in touch with their inner-child to be able to relate to their students.
Get Movin'
The Little Ripples program incorporates intentional, mindful movement to keep students active, calm, and focused.
One Family
Little Ripples teachers are encouraged to work together as a team, develop support circles for group problem-solving, and become a family.
A Smile Goes A Mile
Little Ripples teachers are trained to create warmth in their learning spaces. Smiling is a simple way to make students feel welcome, comfortable, and secure in learning spaces. 
Get Creative
Little Ripples teachers are trained to tap into their inner-child, get creative, and have fun while teaching!
Spreading Joy
Through Little Ripples teacher trainings, teachers are encouraged to take joy and pride in their work, build relationships with each other, and feel confident in their work. 
Play-based Learning
The Little Ripples program incorporates play-based learning as a core component to help children build motor skills, develop a sense of creativity, create positive social connections, and ensure that children have fun while learning. 
Practicing Mindfulness
iACT shows teachers how to practice mindfulness and how to use it as a teaching tool in their classrooms. Mindfulness helps children to build executive functioning and self-regulation skills; it can help them cope with trauma; build resilience; and be used to focus students' attention. 
Welcoming children in Tanzania
Little Ripples teachers are trained to ensure they create a welcoming and safe learning environment. Greeting children and starting everyday with songs, dancing, and mindfulness is an essential part of the program.
Play-based Learning
The Little Ripples program incorporates play-based learning as a core component to help children build motor skills, develop a sense of creativity, create positive social connections, and ensure that children have fun while learning. 
Mindful Learning
iACT shows teachers how to practice mindfulness and how to use it as a teaching tool in their classrooms. Mindfulness helps children to build executive functioning and self-regulation skills; it can help them cope with trauma; build resilience; and be used to focus students' attention. 
Building Hope
Hawa and her husband Isaac live in refugee camp Goz Amer with their five children. Hawa has been living in camp Goz Amer since its inception in 2003. She says, “Life is safer here. That’s why we stay.” A new food ration distribution system has been put in place by the World Food Programme in her camp. The system is based on vulnerability. The most vulnerable families get the most rations. “We have a white card, which means we are the poorest. We receive one sack of sorghum, some cereal, a bar of soap, and sometimes one cup of oil per person.” Hawa says her family typically eats two meals a day of porridge and dried fish. But Haphis—her five-year-old son attending a Little Ripples Pond near her home—gets three meals a day because of Little Ripples, she adds proudly. “I feel very comfortable and restful that my child goes to Little Ripples and receives knowledge and play. Before attending Little Ripples, he [Haphis] would do nothing in the morning. He did not get any preschool edcuation. He would just sit alone at home while I worked.” Hawa describes how his behavior has changed. “Before, he would sit alone and did not like to share with others. Now he hugs people and he is much more sociable and sharing. He tells me about the songs and the games he does at school each day.” Hawa expresses hope for education for Haphis and the rest of her children. “I see that if my children get educated, it is good for their life. Maybe one day they will be a teacher or director.”
Positive Change for Parents and Students
Ahmed is a teacher at a primary school in camp Goz Amer, but he has been the translator for all Little Ripples Teacher Trainings in camp Goz Amer. He has been part of the Little Ripples program since 2013.As a translator, Ahmed has participated in and completed more than eight Little Ripples Teacher Trainings. His son was a student of Little Ripples and has since graduated to primary school. As a result of witnessing the impact of Little Ripples on his son and his ongoing participation in so many teacher trainings, Ahmed decided to take what he had learned from the training and incorporate the approach, tools, and philosophy of Little Ripples into his primary school classroom. The impact has been remarkable. Here is what Ahmed had to say: “When my son was at Little Ripples, he was so happy. Every day he would come home and tell us what he had learned and was doing at Little Ripples. When he turned six and it was time for him to go to primary school, he did not want to because he loved Little Ripples so much.“I like so much of what I have learned from Little Ripples, including the mindfulness, the playing, the asking about feelings, and the positive behavior management, that I take all this and do it with my Level 1 class. Over the year, I have seen that my class is doing better emotionally and academically than even the older Level 5 students.“Other teachers at the primary school see how well my students are doing and ask me to train them. Now, I have a timetable of training with the other teachers, and I teach them about the Little Ripples curriculum and how to use it with their students.”
Empowering Women
“As an Education Director [of Little Ripples] I have increased my knowledge of how to manage and administrate an education program. I feel like a leader. I lead our weekly teacher meetings and it gives me more confidence in being a leader."


Achievements & Awards

November 2021
HundrED 2022
August 2020
Please Remember Us: iACT’s Little Ripples helping refugee families during the pandemic
December 2019
Mindful Learning: Early Childhood Care and Development for Refugee Children in Tanzania
June 2019
Little Ripples published in BVL Early Childhood Matters annual publication
February 2019
Presented Little Ripples to Moving Minds Alliance
January 2019
Little Ripples included in UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring report
September 2018
Little Ripples selected as Action for Refugee Education case study
June 2017
Little Ripple selected for Promising Practices case study
November 2016
WISE Awards Winner for Innovation in Education
April 2016
Presented Little Ripples at Global Summit on Childhood, Association for Childhood Education Intl.
June 2015
Joined INEE Early Childhood Task Team
January 2015
OpenIDEO Innovation in Refugee Education Challenge Winner
June 2013
Presented Little Ripples at National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Spread of the innovation

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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Support iACT
Through donations, fundraisers, and grants iACT is able to sustainably scale Little Ripples to new communities globally. Every little bit counts!
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Partner with iACT
iACT partners with diverse communities, organizations, and institutions to improve, strengthen, deliver, and scale the Little Ripples program.
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Advocate for Displaced Communities
So often, refugee communities and those affected by humanitarian crises are forgotten as soon as the next big emergency hits and draws away global attention. These communities needs advocates on their behalf to ensure they continue to get the support and services they need and have a right to.
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