Early Childhood Development: The Learning Through Play Project

Project Title

Learning Through Play Calendar Project. Adaptation and testing of an early parent-based intervention for child cognitive development in Pakistan.


2001 to 2003


University of Liverpool, UK; University of Toronto, Canada; Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, Toronto; University of Manchester, UK; Pakistan Institute of Learning and Living, Karachi

Project Information

More than 200 million children under the age of 5 in developing countries do not reach their full developmental potential.. Integration of early child development programmes into health systems in resource-poor settings has been identified as one of the major challenges. We adapted a parent-based programme (Learning Through Play) for a rural Pakistani population. We evaluated if the programme was acceptable to the community health workers; increased mothers’ knowledge of early infant development; fostered attitudes supportive of healthy development, and led to reduction in symptoms of maternal mental distress.

The project showed that the parent-based early intervention programme called ‘Learning through Play’, after appropriate cultural adaptation, could be delivered by ordinary health workers in an underprivileged rural community in a developing country. The 6-month intervention succeeded in increasing the mothers’ knowledge of infant development. The control group, in contrast, exhibited no increase in infant development knowledge.

A key feature of the ‘Learning through Play’ programme is its emphasis on the quality of the mother–infant interaction, and helping the mother read infant cues and develop sensitive responsiveness towards the infant through play, which can be pleasurable for both the mother and the infant.