Play is central to how children learn: the way they form and explore friendships; the way they shape and test hypotheses; the way they make sense of their world. Much is known about the importance of play in children’s development, yet little empirical research has explored what it might mean to put play at the center of formal schooling. Playful learning involves more than games and fun activities—it entails activating a mindset where experiences are framed as occasions to be curious and creative, and where teachers and learners can experience joy and agency.  Since 2015, the Pedagogy of Play project, a research collaboration between Project Zero and the LEGO Foundation, has been working to redefine play and reimagine learning in schools, exploring three core questions: What does it mean to have a pedagogy of play and why is it important? What does playful learning look and feel like in classrooms and schools? How do educators set up the conditions where playful learning thrives?  

Together with teacher-researcher partners, we are mapping the terrain of learning through play in early childhood, primary, and middle school settings. We began our research with the International School of Billund (ISB), in Denmark.  A school where the vision and philosophy are designed around play, ISB was fertile ground for exploring early questions about playful learning in schools. Our research with ISB inspired a working set of playful learning principles, practices, and tools; pictures of practice (ideas in action); and, the beginnings of a pedagogy of play framework.  

Because learning through play is contextually determined—what playful learning means and how to nurture it differs from community to community and from school to school—we expanded our investigations to include cultural contexts beyond ISB. Our subsequent research with school communities in South Africa, United States, and Colombia, therefore, further explores how playful learning is shaped by local cultural dimensions, in the process helping schools understand their own vision of learning through play while contributing to a broad understanding of what playful learning looks like in diverse school settings. 

The Pedagogy of Play project is in the final years of research, building towards a playful teaching and learning framework; accompanying tools to help administrators, teachers, and teacher educators; and a guide for a new approach to teacher research called Playful Participatory Practice (PPR) that we developed with ISB. As we continue to explore playful learning in more contexts, we will continue to develop culturally specific models of learning through play as well as a meta-model and research guide for schools to develop their own cultures of playful pedagogy. We invite you to check out our blog at popatplay.org, where we present some of our emergent ideas, share pictures of playful practice, and invite our colleagues to share their experiences with and thoughts about learning through play.

Article

Towards a Pedagogy of Play

A resource from Pedagogy of Play
Article

Playful provocations and playful mindsets: teacher learning and identity shifts through playful participatory research

A resource from Pedagogy of Play
Article

Empowering, meaningful, and joyful: Playful learning in six schools in the United States

A resource from Pedagogy of Play
Article

Toward a South African Pedagogy of Play

A resource from Pedagogy of Play
Article

More than one way: An approach to teaching that supports playful learning

A resource from Pedagogy of Play
Article

Playful Participatory Research: An emerging methodology for developing a pedagogy of play

A resource from Pedagogy of Play

Project Info

FUNDER: The Lego Foundation

Staff

Past Staff