HIPPY was founded in 1969 by Avima D. Lombard, an American scholar of education who emigrated to Israel. Lombard recognized that Israeli-born children of immigrants from North African and Asian countries were not achieving in school as well as their peers. Her proposal was to take a close look at the homes and family life of the children: “Perhaps we [can] find a way to bring changes into the home that would help prepare children to deal with the demands of school.” In focusing on the home setting, she understood that there were two major areas of concern: “the educational enrichment of the child, and strengthening the mother’s self-esteem through her activities as an educator in the home setting.”
The program that evolved from these observations is HIPPY (known in Hebrew as Ha’Etgar, meaning “The Challenge”). What started as a small pilot study with a handful of children in Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood led eventually to HIPPY being sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Education, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and other organizations. Today, more than four decades after Lombard’s initial idea, HIPPY has become a global institution, involved with thousands of families around the world, in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Austria, Germany, Italy, Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2015, the HIPPY International program was selected by the Lego Foundation as one of thirty pioneering programs around the world that promote play as an essential tool in learning.