Thanks to a grant from the Lego Foundation, a new research centre focused on the role of play in the early years has just launched at Cambridge University.
The Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL), will be dedicated to developing research around how play develops and an insight into the role of play.
It will start its journey by working with children from birth to three in local nurseries and health clinics, and a separate strand of the research will be looking into potential play-based approaches within schools.
The Lego Foundation funding of £4million allows for the cost of support and research staff for an initial three-year period.
Dr David Whitebread, PEDAL’s acting director, told Nursery World: “An invigorated research effort in this area will constitute a significant contribution to understandings about the importance of play and the development, internationally, of high quality education, particularly in the area of early childhood.”
He added, “One of the motivations for setting up this centre is that there’s a crisis in childhood at the moment and productive play opportunities for children are very curtailed - within their homes, communities and schooling.
“The kinds of skills and accomplishments that are widely recognised as being vital components of 21st century educational provision, including critical thinking, problem-solving, interpersonal abilities, emotional resilience and creativity, have all been linked theoretically and empirically to playfulness and playful learning.
“The centre is hoping to provide serious scientific evidence that hopefully in the long run will persuade people that we need more of this within educational context.”
Pilots looking at the role of play in education in selected Cambridge schools in Reception and Year 1 classes have already begun. The current focus is on children’s early understanding of science and looking at fun play opportunities to explore if that playful approach to early science really works to enhance understanding of the physical and biological world.
With so many fundamental questions still unanswered around developmental science, it’s an exciting opportunity to explore this relatively under-researched area further.
PACEY believe strongly in the importance of play based learning in the early years and we have a number of resources to support you in the area.