TOY for Inclusion and ICDI at the European Parliament

“The TOY for Inclusion project addresses all the fundamental aspects of quality early childhood education and care […] I can ensure you that we will continue to actively support and implement respect for diversity, equity and inclusion and encourage sustainability of ECEC Play Hubs”.

These are the words of the Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon in her opening address at the TOY for Inclusion event that she hosted at the European Parliament on 19 February 2020. It was organised by International Step by Step Association – ISSA and International Child Development Initiatives –ICDI. MEPs from other countries, national Parlamentarians and representatives of European networks and NGOs were also present.

The event was closed by Geraldine Libreau, Policy Officer responsible for ECEC at DG Education and Culture and coordinator of the Working Group for Early Childhood Education and Care. She was very generous in her praise of the results achieved so far and encouraged us to continue our work towards systemic impact.

“The TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs are an example of meaningful impact reaching all children, including the most marginalized, which is exactly what the European Union is prioritizing in their social and educational policy”.

© 2020 EU-EP/Emilie GOMEZ

The TOY for Inclusion partners organisations from CroatiaItalyHungarySloveniaSlovakia and Turkey shared their experiences and key ingredients for success in a lively panel discussion. These included the centrality of the collaboration of different services to better serve the needs of young children and families; the importance of unstructured play in the lives and development of these children; and, the power of relationships between services and families built on trust and respect for diversity.

During the event, we also heard from the team from the Early Childhood Research Centre at Dublin City University who are conducting an independent impact evaluation of TOY for Inclusion. In their preliminary findings, they have identified key features of impact of the TOY for Inclusion approach, such as: space and location, human and financial resources, support of local authorities, transport and access; community engagement and bottom-up approach; outreaching and inclusion of diverse groups; flexibility; accessibility and integration of services.

© 2020 EU-EP/Emilie GOMEZ

The coordinator of the Romani Early Years Network highlighted how the TOY for Inclusion Play Hubs represent an important meeting point of cultures, languages and religions, where Roma and non-Roma children and families feel welcome and appreciated. This in a context where only 50% of Roma children in Europe have access to education. Play Hubs are an important bridge for them to a better future.

The voices of some of the children attending the Play Hubs were presented through the colourful Pop-up Museum.

The TOY for Inclusion project is coordinated by ICDI anf funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission (KA3) and the Open Society Foundations. For more information: