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Campaigns 18 December 2020

Time to reclaim cities for children to play in

IKEA (Ingka Group) is a founding member of Real Play Coalition, whose key ambition is to create a movement that prioritises the importance of play as something that sparks the fire for a child’s development and learning. Together with PlacemakingX, Real Play Coalition created the Real Play City Challenge, to reclaim places in cities for children to play in. 

The purpose of the Real Play City Challenge is to support, promote and share initiatives that have potential to:

  • inspire more cities, urban planners and other stakeholders to take action in safe, child-friendly and playful urban practice
  • use international knowledge and experience to strengthen safe, child-friendly and playful urban practice
  • enhance impact by learning from child-friendly, safe and playful initiatives in different contexts around the globe

A high-profile jury, consisting of members from among others WEF and UNICEF, selected the winners from the 35 submissions, with a great geographical spread. 3 placemaking winners and 1 city winner (Tirana, Albania) were selected. The placemaking winners will be supported with scaling impact for children, and the projects will be implemented during spring 2021.

At IKEA, play is in our DNA, it’s in everything we do, and we believe that play is rocket fuel for children’s development. It helps them to thrive, now and in the future.  Enabling ample opportunities for engaging in play at home, at school, in city spaces, and in the community can reduce stress, increase coping and resilience in moments of transition, and contribute to community cohesion.

”It’s proven that play helps develop strong social and emotional skills – the foundations for a child’s self-esteem, empathy, and ability to work with others. Cities should be able to provide a playful backdrop for children, reclaiming and integrating play in everyday life beyond the playground,” says Mikael Sjögren, Communication Business Partner, Ingka Group (IKEA)

The coronavirus pandemic and its impact on children’s lives has placed an even greater importance on children’s ability to play. Before the pandemic, there was already worrying trends around mental health for children and adolescents but now those problems are exacerbated particularly in cities. 
“Now is the time to place children’s right to play at the heart of building back better – fostering wellbeing today and shaping minds with a breadth of skills for the future,” says Mikael Sjögren.

To really emphasise the importance of Play, IKEA UK and Ireland will hire a Chief Play Officer. The position is open only to children between 4 and 12 and key responsibilities include testing new toys before they launch in IKEA stores. The Chief Play Officer will be paid in toys – all tested toys will be the child’s to keep. 

Read more about the winners here:

  1. BRAC Community based Play Lab
  2. Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network
  3. Nüdel Kart
  4. City of Tirana

Read more about Real Play Coalition here

For further information, journalists and media professionals can contact us at or by calling +46 70 993 6376


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