Researching the obesogenic food environment in South Africa and Ghana
15 September 2021
Support to the Regional Centre of Excellence for Vaccines, Immunisation and Health Supply Management
15 September 2021


An assessment of a toy-based intervention for children’s cognitive development

An assessment of a toy-based intervention aimed at promoting cognitive development for children aged 2-5 years old in Cape Town, South Africa.

Project period

01 April 2017 – 31 December 2021

The Bright Start programme aimed to support caregivers of young children (2-5 years) to begin to develop cognitive skills from early childhood. Implemented in Crossroads, Cape Town, in 2019, it is based on the Cognitive Development module/intervention developed by colleagues at University College London.

115 caregivers were grouped into six groups for 2-3 year olds and six groups for 4-5 year olds. Sessions were held at two-week intervals to allow carers to repeatedly implement each toy activity with their children. At each session, carers were taught a toy-based activity and were each given a toy to take home and play with their children.

Quantitative data were collected at the start of each subsequent session to assess how caregivers and their children experienced play with the last toy introduced. In addition, post-intervention qualitative assessments were conducted comprising 20 individual interviews, three focus group discussions with carers and a focus group discussion with facilitators.

The pilot study found that the toy activities increased the children’s knowledge of colours, shapes, animals and counting. Caregivers also reported that playing with their children helped them to better understand them and bond with them. The sessions also offered some respite for many caregivers who indicated that when they were at the sessions they could forget about problems at home. Caregivers also established social networks.

The study was undertaken in collaboration with One-to-One Africa Children’s Fund and the University College London.

Partners and Collaborators

  • One-to-One Africa Children’s Fund
  • University College London