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A better world, reimagined through play learning

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Words by Lilian Oloo, Cohort 4 fellow.


In her element: Through play learning, Lilian is reimagining the traditional chalk and board teaching method with toys as a way to make learning more fun and engaging for learners.


Imagine a world where every child has equal opportunity and access to quality education. Research has it that a child’s social strata are a significant predictor of his or her educational success. The environment a child grows around shapes their success in the future. This means that children’s performance gaps due to social class can be traced way back in their earliest years of life. Most often children who start late tend to stay disadvantaged as they may not be able to cover the lost ground. The potential of millions of young children therefore remains unexplored due to failure to provide families access to quality early childhood and learning programmes. My journey as a play advocate and play-based learning promoter was informed by this reality. As the second born in a family of six, I had to work twice as hard as my counterparts to attain post-secondary education.

This inequality became more evident as I began my teaching career in a moderately endowed school while interacting with underprivileged learners. The learning outcomes and progression were clearly different and it was obvious that the gap created at their formative stage was big. I felt the need to positively disrupt this trend. I founded theToy Library Association of Kenya (TLA-KE), an NGO that supports early childhood development using the toy library concept. The toy library concept makes quality early learning opportunities and information more accessible to all children, their families, early learning facilitators and ECD practitioners in order give the underprivileged and marginalized children an equally good start in life.

The Toy Library

A child interacting with some of the toys at The Toy Library Association of Kenya (TLA-KE) founded by Lilain.


A toy library is a high impact, a cost-effective, non-centre based programme that gives children, their families, early learning facilitators and ECD practitioners access to a collection of carefully selected educational and play materials, play sessions and training on how to use the toys to encourage development.

At the toy library, play is made intentional, with objectives making it the best venue to promote children’s holistic development. To make play learning more accessible and impactful to many, TLA-KE had developed the following skills-based training courses;

Children playing in their neighbourhood through the toy library’s outreach programme.

  • Toy Library Set up and Administration

  • Play-based Learning with Toys

  • Material Development from Waste

  • Developing Birth to 2-Year-Olds.

  • Playful Parenting

The idea is to enable the replication of the toy library concept throughout the country and in Africa. It is my vision to have a toy library within the reach of every child.


Cognitive, creative, emotional, physical and social skills are interconnected, making children’s development and learning complex. This is what constitutes a holistic view of child development. What better way to achieve this development than through PLAY? Research shows that playful learning experiences are more effective in developing these interconnected skills. These five skills are essential for a child to thrive in a dynamic and uncertain world. When children acquire cognitive skills, they learn how to solve complex tasks in their life.


This ability is transferred to situations to do with school, their future work and private life. Creative skills enable exploration of possibilities and evaluation. They support in identifying the best solutions and transforming ideas into reality. When children develop strong emotional skills, they are able to manage and express their emotions. This helps them to handle impulses, tackle life challenges and relate meaningfully with family and friends. Children attain strong physical skills by being physically active and practising sensory-motor skills.


Lilian conducting training on Toy Library Setup and Administration


The early childhood space necessitates innovation with regards to how programmes are delivered. If every child had access to a toy library that offers high quality early learning play opportunities, he or she would have the required foundation to make it through formal schooling, continue with their studies and make it life; therefore breaking the poverty cycle.

Working together with other organizations to establish toy libraries will result in cost-effective, improved learning outcomes for marginalised children.


“Play is not a break from learning. It is endless, delightful, deep, engaging, practical learning. It’s the doorway into the child’s heart!” ~ Vince Gowmon





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