A new research centre has been established at Cambridge University, with the goal of learning about the role of play in early years, thanks to a generous grant from the Lego Foundation.

The centre, named PEDAL (Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning), will be working with local children from birth till the age of three to research the role of play and how play develops as the child grows.

PEDAL’s acting director, Dr David Whitebread, has said that one of the main motivations for conducting the research is because productive play opportunities for children in homes and at school are diminishing. He added:

“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.”

Currently, there are pilot studies taking place in selected primary schools in Cambridge to find out more about the role that play has in education. The work the children are doing currently has a focus on science and the researchers are setting up play opportunities  to see if they can enhance the children’s understanding of the subject in this way, compared to conventional teaching methods.

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