Play is central to how children learn: the way they make sense of their world; the way they form and explore friendships; the way they shape and test intellectual, social, emotional, and ethical ideas. Much is known about the importance of play in children’s development. Yet little research has explored what it might mean to put play at the center of schooling.  What is the relationship between play and playful learning? How do teachers, curricula, and a school community create a culture that supports a playful pedagogy? Understanding attitudes about and practices around play—in classrooms, on school-wide levels, and in global policy arenas—is an ambitious charge. The Pedagogy of Play (PoP) project begins this work with a two-year participatory research initiative in partnership with the International School of Billund (ISB), in Denmark. Supported by the LEGO Foundation, PoP will investigate the role of play and playful learning at ISB and will consider more broadly what it might mean to have play as the heart of a school.


With a goal of understanding, articulating, and advocating for the role of play in learning and schools, the Pedagogy of Play research team has been engaging in a program of participatory research in collaboration with faculty, staff, and children at the International School of Billund (ISB) in Denmark. While the research is still very much in process, we take this opportunity to share two working papers that highlight some emergent findings and hypotheses. The first, Towards a Pedagogy of Play, situates the research in the fields of play and learning and presents promising theories around the objective and subjective nature of learning through play and the forces that shape those experiences. The companion paper, Playful Participatory Research: An Emerging Methodology for Developing a Pedagogy of Play, explores a new model of collaborative research and takes a deeper dive into the work with ISB.