Playing with time

Every child has a right to play. But as our lives and cities get busier, finding the time for fun is more of a challenge. That’s why we’re working on enabling people to embrace play in their everyday lives.

Play shapes who we are and makes us stronger, more creative and more active. That’s why we have made it our goal to become experts in it. We want to raise awareness of the importance of play and inspire people to play more. We do this through our Let’s Play for Change campaign that we run through our IKEA Retail business and by contributing to the Real Play Coalition.

“This is about supporting our local communities and growing with them,” explains Maria Binnelid, Campaign Project Manager, Ingka Group, leading the Let’s Play for Change campaign. “Our cities are becoming ’play deserts’, with more space for offices and shops and fewer for play. But play is a basic need, and should not be a luxury only a few can enjoy.

“Of course, there are long-term benefits to taking action, not only for children, but for businesses and society as a whole,” says Maria. “Play is a powerful learning tool. It is vital to children’s development, helping them develop skills such as emotional intelligence, creativity and problem solving – all the key skills employers look for. So, it is in all of our interests to help create more time and space for play.”

Let’s Play for Change comes to life across IKEA every November and December when we fill our stores with lots of opportunities to spark fun. This includes a drawing competition, when we invite creative kids from all over the world to draw the soft toy of their dreams. The six most unique drawings are turned into real soft toys – the SAGOSKATT collection – sold during next year’s play campaign. The full purchase price of each of these soft toys is donated to local organisations and initiatives that support every child’s right to play and develop. During the competition in 2017, we received around 87,000 soft toy competition drawings from children aged 0–12 years.

Song Shuang, a co-worker at the IKEA Shenyang  store, helped to bring the Let’s Play for Change campaign activities to students at Sichuan Dazhou Minyue Zhongxin School.

“Play is vital for all of us, and every child has the right to play and develop. Just looking at the happy faces of these children shows how important play is, and the impact we can create when reaching out to our local communities,” says Song Shuang.

IKEA Retail China donated EUR 64,200 to the Onederland Project, which is run by a local NGO, One Foundation, with the aim of supporting children’s development through play and physical education. The money was used to build playgrounds and support sports teachers’ training in five rural schools in Dazhou Sichuan Province and Tianshui Gansu Province with more than 2,300 students, many of whom are “left behind” children whose parents live and work in cities away from their children.

Tackling the play gap

From our research, we know that there are many barriers preventing people from enjoying more play in everyday life. For example, stress and responsibilities at work as well as rigid daily routines stop of us from playing more. Across many countries and cultures, play is seen as an activity for children, not a mind-set that can bring joy to everyday activities for all of us. And people often see play as a luxury – a “nice to have” moment when all other serious activities have been taken care of.

Together with Unilever, the LEGO Foundation and National Geographic, we launched the Real Play Coalition at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in January 2018. We will use our combined insights, reach and influence to impact the cultural perception and importance of play among parents, practitioners and decision-makers in society.

We want to contribute to a movement that prioritises the importance of play as something that both allows children to be children, and sparks the fire for a child’s development and learning.

In FY19, we will continue to advocate for the importance of play and support research on the value of play. In November 2018 we organised the first Global Month of Play together with our Real Play Coalition partners.