It was during early fifties when the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, visited the famous "Empiere's Place" in Earstuhile, USSR and was moved to find hundreds of children, immersed in the world of fantasy and creativity, unaffected by barriers of caste, class, religion and place, The idea of a similar institute , solely for the children cropped up in his mind. The Bal Bhavan Society was registered under the Registeration of Societies Act XXI 1860 on 12.8.1955.Later on in 1956 Pt. Nehru founded Bal Bhavan and the activities started in a tin shed at Turkman Gate, Delhi giving a start to a nationwide mission for creative enhancement of children through playing and doing different activities in a child friendly environment. Since its inception in 1956, the Bal Bhavan movement has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the length and breadth of the country covering 104 districts with affiliated Bal Bhavans and Bal Kendras. National Bal Bhavan is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) and is fully funded by it.

Smt. Indira Gandhi was the Chairperson of Bal Bhavan for two terms 10.03.1955 to March 1966 and 25.09.1974 to 1976. As the founder Chairperson of Bal Bhavan she spearheaded the movement to provide millions of children all over the country an opportunity for self-expression. She was intimately connected with the activities of children and found the time from her busy schedule to come over, talk to them, encourage them and share with them her ideas. Her succesors like Dr. Karan Singh, Smt. Pupul Jaykar, Smt. Mekhla Jha, Begum Bilkees Latif, Ms Geetha Dharamrajan are to name a few who were keen to develop National Bal Bhavan as a Children's paradise where they learn through informal activities. Shri Vipin Kumar continues to take this movement forward as the current Chairperson.