Two girls laughing while lying on a red rug with white dots, their heads close together.

Let play come first and the rest will follow

Play is a universal language that crosses generations, borders and languages. Through play, we connect, create, recharge, escape and explore. It’s a basic human need – and a human right.

Two boys in an upside-down BJURSTA bench pretending it’s a boat on a wrinkled black/off-white STOCKHOLM rug.
Everyone, young and old, benefits from play. It’s an essential part of children’s development, helping them learn about themselves and the world. Being an outstanding creativity booster and stress reliever, it’s nearly as vital for grown-ups. The list of benefits goes on: play develops communication skills and problem-solving, it makes us more flexible and optimistic, and that’s not even the half of it.
Two children in a playroom with wooden toys and several wardrobes, one is doing a handstand and one is preparing to jump.

Clearly, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of play. So, how do we describe it? Play is usually defined as an activity we do for fun and recreation without any serious, practical purpose. It’s stress-free, voluntary, and, most of the time, spontaneous. The magic of playing is that there are no rules about when there are rules or not. Sometimes playing goes on for days, and the storyline is super complex. Another time, all it takes to play is wearing a silly hat to dinner.

Best of all, the learnings and growth and general greatness come for free as long 
as we remain focused on what’s most important – having fun.

Every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • 1994

    Ingvar Kamprad initiates what becomes Children’s IKEA

  • 1997

    The launch of  Children’s IKEA

A white ANTILOP high chair.
1997 – A Children’s IKEA icon – ANTILOP high chair
A red FAMNIG heart cushion.

1998 – A Children’s IKEA icon – FAMNIG heart cushion

Did you know?

Play is the rocket fuel of brain development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play leads to changes at the molecular (epigenetic), cellular (neuronal connectivity), and behavioural levels (socioemotional and executive functioning skills) and promotes learning, our ability to adapt and problem solve, and drives our social skills and positive behaviours.

A child in denim overalls is lying on a white sofa with plenty of cushions, looking at the ceiling with one hand up.

On the barricades of play

At IKEA, we know that the best way for children to learn, develop and grow is to play. We also know that the home is the most important playground. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to help make that space fun, adventurous, and safe.

A boy in a blue shirt and a cape squeezing a lemon with VARDAGEN cooking tweezers over a VARDAGEN glass bowl.

Playing is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. And it’s almost as crucial for grownups as for kids. But at times, family life is all about logistics, and the idea of playing together seems far off. If we think of play as a specific activity with pre-defined rules, it’s easy to feel the pressure when experts go on about its greatness.

Because how should we find the time to play with our kids as much as we ought to? Or the energy? When play becomes another chore to add to the list, the point is lost. 

A mother helping a child strain flour in a big container with an IDEALISK stainless steel strainer.
Then again, playing doesn’t have to be more complicated than preparing dinner and pretending to be a chef. It doesn’t have to revolve around toys, and it doesn’t have to be confined to a specific space. Playing has no rules. It happens anywhere and anytime – and at IKEA, we want to keep getting better at offering solutions and inspiration that makes it come easy. We do everything in our power to make products for children safe and healthy, but we don’t settle for that. The journey to enable fun and safe play across the whole home continues, including parts of the range that aren’t explicitly developed for kids.

Did you know?

Much of what we know, we’ve learnt by asking children themselves – which we do for example through Kids Lab, where children help us develop new products, and through the online Kids Panel, where we get valuable input from children aged 8-14 worldwide. Our insights into play also come from the three IKEA Play Reports (as a matter of fact, they make up the world’s largest-ever body of research on the topic). From 2009 to 2017, we did thousands of interviews with parents, children and teenagers worldwide on the topics of child development and play. The learnings directly influence the way we design for the ever-changing world of home – and for the home as the best ever playground.

I’m 42, but no one treats me as a stereotypical 42-year-old – and I would feel quite small if they did.

Magnus Thuvesson, Knowledge and Insight Leader, Children’s IKEA.
Five drawings of imaginary characters: a bird with a crown, a blue cat, a mermaid dog, an egg, and two slices of bread.

SAGOSKATT – fantastic soft toys with a mission

The SAGOSKATT collection is a range of limited-edition soft toys designed by kids for kids. They are the result of the annual IKEA Soft toy drawing competition where children across the world come to the nearest IKEA store or enter online to submit a drawing of their dream soft toy. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of kids have participated and let their imagination run wild – with fantastic results.

A child in a room with plenty of crafted projects made of cardboard, drawing a green character on a sheet of paper.
The Soft Toy Drawing Competition not only allows children to share their dreams and creativity – it is also a way to contribute to every child’s right to play and develop. IKEA is donating 100 per cent of the proceeds of the SAGOSKATT collection to support local initiatives that promote children’s right to play.
A group of SAGOSKATT soft toys inside a teepee arranged as if they are reading a book with a flashlight.
Five SAGOSKATT soft toys with a background of paper cut-outs of clouds, flowers, sun and hearts.

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.

Henri Matisse

Embrace your inner weirdo in everything you do.

21-year old woman, no kids, USA 
Hands of a child drawing with MÅLA felt-tipped pens and several sheets of paper with drawings of imaginary creatures.

The Real Play Coalition – a global movement that puts play first

At IKEA, spreading the word about the power of play is serious business. That’s why in 2018, we formed an alliance with others who share the same belief. Today, the Real Play Coalition consists of five members: ARUP, National Geographic, the LEGO Foundation, UNICEF and IKEA. Together we work towards our purpose – to make play globally accessible, integrated, and inclusive, because it’s an essential right for children to thrive now and in the future.

An adult and two children playing in a living room with green tape floor markings and colourful cushions as stepping stones.

By working together, we have a greater chance of inspiring a real shift towards more play in kids’ lives. We focus on three main objectives: to prove the importance of play through evidence, to embed play-based principles into urban design, and to incorporate play into children’s daily lives. Our ambition is to create a movement that narrows the play gap for 100 million children by 2030.

How will we do it? By using our combined insights, reach and influence, and by working with children, we are creating a movement that impacts the cultural perception of the importance of play – among parents, practitioners, institutions and wider societies.

Learn more and get tips on how to weave more play into your everyday life at

A child with a yellow and red outfit, holding up a pair of scissors in each hand.

Did you know?

At the Real Play Coalition, we see play as a critical resource for children and their development. The Reclaiming Play in Cities Report, launched at the 10th World Urban Forum, reviews the evidence around learning through play and the impact that urban environments have on children’s access to play and, ultimately, their overall development.

The report also unveils a first-of-its-kind Urban Play Framework. It provides a method to understand how various urban systems impact a child’s learning through play experience, influencing their skills development and ability to thrive and reach their full potential.

A child holding a long branch while playing in a playground.