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PEDAL: News & Events

Playful Learning at the Faculty of EducationPlayful Learning poster

Is your primary-school age child a budding researcher? Find out by coming to this FREE and fun event for families during half-term (26 October). As part of the University of Cambridge's annual Festival of Ideas, PEDAL's popular 'Playful Learning' event is back. Come and visit the Faculty of Education to see play and education research in action. Children can take part in playful research activities and experiments led by our students and researchers, whilst grown-ups can have a look around the Faculty’s observation laboratory to discover how psychologists observe, film and code behaviour.

This drop-in event is free, and you do not have to register - just come along any time between 10am and 1pm. You'll need to stay with your child(ren) during this event but there is a cafe on site that serves great coffee, snacks and lunch - see you there!


Research seminar videos

Every term PEDAL invites experts from all over the world to talk about different aspects of play research.

You can watch past talks by world-leading academics such as Prof Kathy Sylva, Prof Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Prof Clancy Blair and Prof Anthony Pellegrini, by visiting our video/audio archive

If you'd like to attend these free events in person, do join our mailing list.


Latest PEDAL e-newsletter

For details of forthcoming PEDAL events, links to our latest research publications and updates from the team, you can see our latest newsletter here

Sign-up to receive it straight into your inbox every term.


Play at the Extremes - a panel discussionPlay at the Extremes poster

Join the conversation about the changing nature of childhood...are we really heading from 'free range' to 'hot house'?  We'll hear if children are kept too safe, if parents and schools are too risk averse, and whether adventurous and independent play opportunities provide unique developmental, social and emotional benefits.

Between 6-8pm on 18 October in Homerton College, a panel of guests will join PEDAL's Dr Jenny Gibson to discuss this topical issue. 

Refreshments will be served. Registration essential for admission, tickets issued on a 'first come, first served' basis and are available here.

PEDAL is hosting this event as part of the University of Cambridge's Festival of Ideas.


Wearable tech makes research into playground social interaction possible

A multi-disciplinary team (including PEDAL's Dr Jenny Gibson) has trialled promising new wearable wireless technology for conducting research into playground social behaviour - what happens when 'loose parts' play equipment and play workers are introduced at playtime? Read more in the pre-print.


Ghanaian views on the role of play in learning

New article in the Association for Professional Development in Early Years (TACTYC) international research journal by PEDAL PhD student Esinam Avornyo, exploring multiple stakeholder perspectives on the role of play in the classroom for 3-5 year old children. Key findings indicate that teachers and parents with higher levels of education appreciate the value and benefits of learning through play, but that rote learning is still perceived as the best route to school readiness by those with fewer qualifications. Though not as attractive to upwardly-mobile Ghanaian families as private schools, state schools often have the best qualified teachers who are more receptive to play-based pedagogies.  Read the article here.


New research on links between how parents play with children and executive functions

A new study by PhD student Min Kyong Lee, PEDAL's Dr Sara Baker and Dr David Whitebread has been published in a themed issue (on scaffolding) in the British Journal of Educational Psychology.  This research looks at parent child interaction and executive function in a sample of families from South Korea and is FREE to download until the end of July 2018 here.


Public Lecture with Prof Kathy Hirsh-PasekKHP picture

"Yale Professor Ed Zeigler wrote that “play is under siege.” In 1981 40% of a child’s discretionary time was spent in play. By 1997 that time had already decreased to 25%."

Taking this as her starting point, world-renowned developmental psychologist and expert in play, Prof Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, gave a PEDAL public lecture entitled 'A Prescription for Play: Why Play Fosters Social & Cognitive Development' in May 2018.  You can see a video of Kathy's inspiration talk here.


Research Seminar with Prof Daryl Greenfield

"Science has the power to engage early childhood educators and young children in hands-on, minds-on, fun and engaging experiences that increase the quality of teaching as well as provide young children with critical problem-solving skills and improved learning in multiple school readiness areas."

Prof Daryl Greenfield led a research seminar for academics, educationalists and teachers on the subject of early childhood science education - what approaches work, what skills it develops in children, how it improves teaching practice and the potential policy implications. You can watch a video of his talk here.


Watch a webinar about playing with babies & toddlersevent photo

Hosted by the LEGO Foundation's Play Futures online platform, this webinar covers the following questions:

  • What styles of interaction do we see between babies and caregivers?
  • How can you tune in your infants’ cues and signals for play?
  • And how do these positive, playful moments influence development?

Contributors are:

Dr Vicky Leong - Developmental cognitive neuroscientist interested in how parents and infants communicate and learn from each other. She heads the Baby-LINC Lab at the University of Cambridge where she uses electroencephalgraphy (EEG) to study how mutual synchronisation could help babies to learn from their mothers.

Dr Ciara Laverty - Research Associate at PEDAL, interested in how parents play with their babies (0-2 year olds), and what a playful interaction looks like.

Dr Melissa Scarpate - a freelance research consultant holding a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies.

Hanne Jensen: Research Specialist at the LEGO Foundation Centre for Creativity, Play and Learning. Hanne's research focuses on children’s Learning through Play, particularly how interactions between children and adults can frame learning opportunities.


Prof Paul Ramchandani - paper published on depression and playfulness in fathers

A research paper has been published by Prof Paul Ramchandani entitled 'Depression in and playfulness in fathers and young infants: A matched design comparison study'. Key findings include:

  1. playful behaviours at 3-months differ between depressed and non-depressed fathers;
  2. depressed fathers use less playful excitation, gentle touch and active engagement;
  3. coding measures focusing on fathers may accurately detect and classify playfulness;
  4. unique features of paternal play could be a target for future family interventions.

You can download the paper via this link.


Dr David Whitebread - A Farewell TalkXmasDarwin

Watch a video of the informal talk by Dr David Whitebread entitled 'A Life in Teaching & Research (or I Could Have Been a Rock Star!)' as he retires from a career in teaching and research.

David looks back at his formative experiences as a primary school teacher and how that led him to thirty plus years as an academic at the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge, culminating in the formation of PEDAL - a research centre that examines the role of play in children's education, development and learning.


Play: A Window into Children's Social Worlds

Prof Anthony Pellegrini joined a group of esteemed academics as part of Dr Jenny Gibson & Dr Vicky Leong [https://www.languagesciences.cam.ac.uk/directory/vvec2@cam.ac.uk]'s two day symposium entitled 'Breaking Barriers' on 11th & 12th September 2017.  Looking at how research in the field can be enriched by new technology, Prof Pellegrini talked about the difficulty of defining play and why this impacts its research.  You can see his talk here.

Dr Jenny Gibson and Dr Behzad Heravi  spoke about HOPSCOTCH (Hi-Tech Observation of Playground Social Communication Trajectories in Children) - using wireless satellite navigation equipment to look at how the playground environment affects social interaction.  You can see their talk here.

Dr Elian Fink gave a presentation 'Baby Talk' - a research project aimed to explore the association between infant-parent play at four months of age and the child’s linguistic environment in the home. Using a ‘talk-pedometer’ – a lightweight audio recorder worn by the child, able to record 16 hours of audio, researchers were able to measure adult word count, infant babbles and parent-infant turn-taking. You can see her talk here.

Alejandro Moreno presented research in the context of analysing and shaping children’s play behaviour in interactive playgrounds, technology-enhanced spaces where players engage in co-located, playful activities. You can see his talk here.


New Professor for PEDALProf Ramchandani

We are delighted to introduce the new LEGO Professor of Play in Education, Development & Learning - Professor Paul Ramchandani.

Find out more about the first LEGO Professor of Play in Education, Development and Learning from the University of Cambridge.

BBC Article

For all media enquiries please contact the University of Cambridge's news desk on 01223 332300.

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