“Children Are Our Role Models”: Child Participation Through Culture, Co-creation and Inspiring Change

Written by Aimee Bryan and Chris Payne of The LEGO Group

For 90 years, our mission has remained consistent, to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow by bringing the joy of play to children around the world.

As you can imagine, we have spent a lot of time thinking about how children play and how, through play, children learn. We know that, when children play, their creativity and imagination are stimulated, they learn to solve problems, and they build resilience helping them to thrive in a rapidly changing world. As the context of ‘play’ evolves in our digital world, so we believe must the role of children in shaping how we innovate and develop the play experiences of the future.

We know who the real experts are when it comes to play. You guessed it; children are. We believe this so strongly that sitting at the top of our guiding LEGO® Brand Framework, you will find the statement, “Children are our role models.” They inspire us, they turbo- charge our creativity, and ultimately, they help us to make better play experiences, bringing more value into children’s lives.

Equally, we recognise every child’s right to participate and the value this creates for them, including their skills development, empowerment, and sense of belonging.

That is why child participation isn’t just a “nice to have”; it’s a critical component of our history and of our future. It runs from our early conception of products, services, and initiatives through to the core nature of the LEGO® System in Play, where children are given the tools and the freedom to create whatever they can imagine.We are on a journey to engage children actively in the co-production of every new product and experience we breathe life into, whether physical, digital, or a combination of both.

Meaningfully involving children isn’t always straightforward, and we continue to learn as much from the children as they do from their engagement with us. Yet, we have no doubt about the value it creates for children, our products, and our people.

All good words, right? But what does it look like in practice?

Safeguarding As a Foundation

Before we jump into child participation in action, we want to be clear that, for us, meaningful engagement with children has to go hand-in-hand with child safeguarding.

To enable our ambitions on child participation, we have built a robust global safeguarding framework that includes national and regional processes, so all employees interacting with children on behalf of The LEGO Group receive the same high standard of screening and training. This includes a process for delivering mandatory background screenings as part of our hiring process for all employees in roles that require regular interaction with children. All new employees are introduced to our approach to children’s rights and safeguarding early in the recruitment process.

While implementation is an ongoing process, our framework has established an essential foundation for safeguarding the well-being of children across our child participatory activities.

Involving Children from Inception Through to Post-Launch

So, how do we involve and include children throughout our product and service development journey and in shaping how we behave as a responsible brand? Our approach prioritises four areas: observation, validation, ongoing communication, and amplification.



It’s not enough to think we know ‘play’. It’s imperative that we observe and engage with how children play today if we want to be relevant to their lives. This combination of active and passive engagement enables us, as adults, to understand the needs we aim to meet. Only by engaging and playing with children can we unlock and understand life through a child’s eyes.

Case Study: Exploring the Role of Music in play

Our designers wanted to understand what role music plays in children’s lives and how children are bringing music and play together. So, we let ourselves be inspired.

Through a multi-phased, ethnographic study across the homes of 12 children aged 7-10, we set out to observe what role music plays in children’s lives. In-home observation provided our designers and researchers with a deep, naturalistic understanding of the opportunities for music, play, and digital technology to come together.

As one of our researchers put it, “Observing people makes you feel it more than PowerPoints ever can, and feeling is critical to understanding.”Our research found that music plays a range of roles in children’s lives and in how they play. We found, for example, for older children in particular, music is a passion point and fandom facilitates social belonging, whereas for younger children, music is a source of inspiration for storytelling and role play. These different roles served as the springboard for our ideation and led us to prioritise product designs that could satisfy a variety of children’s social needs.

Top Tip: Managing Expectations & Interpreting Outputs

It is important to be clear that, at the exploratory stage, you are unlikely to come out with a single, matured idea. Outputs can be messy. The key is to find those one or two nuggets of insight that can underpin the next step in the process. Taking it brick by brick!



However much our designers connect with their inner child during the development process, it’s children who validate whether our play experiences meet their needs and those of their caregivers and gift-givers.

Once we’ve identified a new play pattern or product, we embed qualitative and quantitative testing within the development cycle. We invite children to interact and feedback on early-stage concepts, prototypes, and products, inviting parents and caregivers to observe the co-production and share their thoughts within the process.

Case Study: Bringing a New Co-Building Experience to Market

Recognising the opportunity that the pandemic presented for more ‘Build Together’ experiences, we invited children and their families to co-design and test a more collaborative building experience in 2021. We involved around 30 children (aged between 7-12) through a series of remote, asynchronous testing before releasing a new digital Build Together experience within our LEGO® Building Instructions app, all in time for Christmas.

As our facilitators were unable to be present during these sessions, the design teams created a test framework that included a neutral non-player-character (affectionately called Botty) that guided the children and their parents or caregivers through the experience.We were able to identify a number of child- adult play patterns from our research that fed into how we designed and took the update to market. We also collected several insights around child usability, such as the fact that younger children struggled to use QR codes printed on the box to access the experience, requiring us to think differently to ensure accessibility.

Top Tip: Managing Expectations & Interpreting Outputs

It is important to be clear that, at the exploratory stage, you are unlikely to come out with a single, matured idea. Outputs can be messy. The key is to find those one or two nuggets of insight that can underpin the next step in the process. Taking it brick by brick!



Embedding feedback loops ensures that, even after deployment of our digital products and services, we can continue to align those experiences with the evolving perspectives and needs of children. Inviting children into regular testing panels or community discussions also enables us to stay in touch with evolving play patterns.

Case Study: Refreshing LEGO® Life

In 2017, we launched LEGO® Life as a safe, social network for children under 13. After 2 years in the market, we recognised the need to give the experience a fresh and relevant look and feel for children.So, we teamed up with a small group of children to sit, in-person, alongside our designers in our Denmark HQ. The children, after being given their official ‘designer’ badge, were asked to create a mood board to help us understand how the LEGO® Life feed should look, feel, and function.

The designers then took this ‘brief’ and translated it into prototypes that were then pitched to the children, who made the final decision on which creative moved forward into build and rollout.A key takeaway from this was that children are brilliant at breaking down stereotypes that we adults tend to build. Pink, for example, was proven to resonate just as strongly with boys as with girls.

Top Tip: Show Children the Impact They Have Had

Showing children the impact of their participation by providing transparency on the decisions and outcomes helps children to see their value and encourages more open and powerful ongoing communication.



An exciting avenue of discovery for us at The LEGO Group is how we can leverage our brand and platforms to amplify children’s voices on matters of importance to them. We’re on a mission to include and involve the voices of children from all walks of life, particularly committing to giving space to those voices who have no accessible platform to make their voices heard today.

Case Study: Boosting Children’s Voices on Climate Change

In the run up to COP26 in 2021, we adapted our Build the Change programme to understand how children felt about climate change and the environment and to push children’s vision for the future into the hands of decision makers. Digital participation tools were central to our ability to do this at scale.

We crowdsourced advice from more than 6,000 kids on what world leaders should do to protect the planet through an online survey, bespoke workshops, and our partnership with SuperAwesome’s platform, PopJam. Through this engagement, we created a manifesto with 10 recommendations (designed as a digital LEGO® building instruction) that was presented to every child who engaged with the platform, to decision makers at COP26, and to the world online.

We have exciting cases of amplification in the pipeline as well. For example, we recently worked with Western Sydney University and UNICEF to deliver creative and participatory workshops with over 300 children across 13 countries. The purpose was to build a better, more child- centric understanding of children’s well- being in a digital era and of how our digital design choices impact upon that well-being. Through this, we aspire to put children’s perspectives at the centre of our digital world and how it is designed.

Top Tip: Authentic Amplification

It’s important that, as adults, we allow the authenticity of children’s voices to be heard, however uncomfortable it might be for us to hear. It’s not our right to manipulate or shape what is shared to suit our own needs or agenda. It is our responsibility to listen and learn from those voices.


We believe in the value of including children in how we build our future, value for the children that participate in shaping our decisions, value for the millions of children and families that benefit from better play experiences, and, subsequently, value for The LEGO Group.

As digital technology plays an increasingly defining role in how children develop, play, and learn, we are committed to giving children a say in what that future looks like. We are excited about the opportunity that digital technology creates to empower children and to foster their well-being on a whole new level, but unless we collectively put children front and centre, we risk missing out on this opportunity. It’s why we are committed to engaging children meaningfully in every product we make for them, from inception through to launch and beyond.

At The LEGO Group, Children Remain Our Role Models, and We Look Forward to Being Inspired by Them for Years to Come.