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PEDAL News Archive 2015

Talk at the Finnish Institute - November 2015

Prof. Kristiina Kumpulainen, Pauliina Ståhlberg and David WhitebreadDavid Whitebread was invited to give a talk by Embassy of Finland at the Finnish Institute in London on Friday 20 November, 2015. Speaking alongside Prof. Kristiina Kumpulainen, from the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki, both David and Kristiina talked about the approaches to playful learning in the UK and Finland.

Nursery World promotes PEDAL

We are delighted with the media coverage received since PEDAL's launch, and we hope that academics, practitioners, parents and teachers will all follow the research centre's progress.  To see Nursery World's article, click here or to join the PEDAL mailing list and receive regular updates, do send us an email

Dr David Whitebread's blog entitled 'Crisis in Childhood: the loss of play' has been posted on the Cambridge Primary Review Trust website

Children playing with rope pedal play

ITV News report about PEDAL centre, interview with Dr David Whitebread and how Cambridge academics study play in children's development - broadcast on 6:44 pm, Thu 29 Oct 2015

View the full report here:


Dr David Whitebread attended the WISE Research Summit in Doha 3-5 November 2015 as a panel member discussing quality in Early Childhood Education

For further information about the Wise Summit please click here



Professor, University of Delaware and leading play researcher Roberta Golinkoff writes an article for the Huffington Post about the PEDAL launch and the importance of play

WISE Research  - Quality in Early Childhood Education:
An International Review and Guide for Policy Makers

Dr David Whitebread co-authored a report exploring the key international developments in early childhood education, including the main principles for provision, pedagogy and curriculum. It also reviews different international approaches to quality in early childhood education, including from a developmental perspective, through recognized international reports and concrete case studies in the field. The conclusion addresses the implications for policy and practice on both global and local scales.

To read the full report please click this link

Wise Summit David Whitebread

Launch of the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) at 4pm 22 October 2015

Today the University of Cambridge is launching a ground-breaking research institution to examine the role of playfulness in learning and development in young children.

The Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) has been established with a £4 million donation from the LEGO Foundation, a Danish corporate foundation funded by LEGO whose aim is to use play to improve learning for children all over the world.

PEDAL acting director Dr David Whitebread said: “Play opportunities for children living in modern urban environments are increasingly curtailed, within their homes, communities and schooling. At the same time, play remains a relatively under-researched area within developmental science, with many fundamental questions still unanswered. Therefore, an invigorated research effort in this area will constitute a significant contribution to cultural understandings about the importance of play and the development, internationally, of high quality education, particularly in the area of early childhood. ”

The launch will take place at 4pm 22 October 2015. If you would like to watch the event (either live or at a later date) it can be viewed via:

We hope you will join us for this exciting event!
The PEDAL team

pedal launch

Playful writing day planned at University of Cambridge Primary School

The University of Cambridge Primary School and PEDAL members Marisol Basilio and David Whitebread prepare the Playful Writing Day event for October 2015, where teachers and children become experts of serious play! The Playful writing day includes a talk by David Whitebread and Marisol Basilio, as well as primary school teachers who have collaborated in previous research. Participants practice playful pedagogy by leading small groups of children in playful learning activities using LEGO sets.

lego person

Cognitive Development Society Biennial Conference in Ohio, USA

Audrey Kittredge (PEDAL Postdoctoral researcher) presented work with her collaborators at Carnegie Mellon University (David Klahr and Kevin Willows) on children's play-based learning at the CDS meeting in October 2015. Researchers know that preschoolers do scientific experiments when freely playing with objects, but we don’t know what kids are thinking as they do this. To answer this question, Audrey and her colleagues asked children about their play during a touchscreen tablet game. Many 4-6 year-olds readily talked about cause-and-effect relationships that they experiment with during their play suggesting that early childhood science education could capitalize on children's motivation to think and talk about causality, and that digital games might be a great way to do this. To learn more about the project, visit the conference's online program and search for "Kittredge".

Award of Future Research Leaders ESRC Grant

In October 2015 Marisol Basilio was awarded a Future Research Leaders ESRC Grant entitled: “Early Learning Abilities Promoting Success in Education (ELAPSE): Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study and directions of a new longitudinal study”. The aim of this proposal is to investigate the developmental mechanisms by which children's early learning skills, life conditions, and opportunities to play result in different later educational outcomes. The project looks at success in education beyond school attainment, including children's socio-emotional experiences in relation to learning and school. To address this question, Marisol will conduct secondary analyses of the longitudinal Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) data in order to distinguish children's profiles, examine developmental trajectories, and estimate models of early child development. The second aim of the project is to conduct a feasibility evaluation for a future longitudinal study of early development, with a significant emphasis on the role of self-regulation and play.
More information on the Future Leaders Scheme.

ESRC funds “HOPSCoTCh - Hi-tech Observation of Social Communication Trajectories in Children”

HOPSCoTCh is a research project designed to help us understand more about children’s behaviour in school playgrounds. HOPSCoTCH is led by Jenny Gibson (PEDAL) in collaboration with Stephen Hailes, David Skuse, Behzad Heravi, Elian Fink (PEDAL). We will to use GPS and motion sensor technology to help us track children’s social and physical activity at school playtimes. We are interested in understanding how we can optimize playtimes so that children can make the most of this learning opportunity. We’re excited to be working with Learning through Landscapes. Playtime is an opportunity for fun but it’s also an opportunity for learning. Children get the chance to independently develop social skills such as making and developing friendships, following rules, sharing and negotiation. It’s also a great opportunity for physical activity and improving wellbeing.

Cambridge LEGO professor and research centre

The Times Higher Education article about proposed LEGO professor, to read the full article please follow this link.

lego people

Report published by All-party parliamentary group on a fit and healthy childhood

This report, which PEDAL members David Whitebread and Elian Fink contributed to, is the fourth of a series from The All Party-Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood. The recommendations within it contribute to their vision of 'whole child' health and wellbeing. 'Play' itself requires definition and has been interpreted in many ways by many different people and organisations.

To view the full report please follow this link.

report cover

Parents of summer-born children get right to delay start of school

Parents of summer-born children are to be given the right to delay their child’s education for a year, with the reassurance that they will not then be forced to skip a year to catch up with their peers. David Whitebread, Director of PEDAL, said the impact of being summer-born was particularly severe in the UK because of the early age at which children start school.
The schools minister Nick Gibb said admissions rules would be changed so children born between 1 April and 31 August would be allowed to go into reception a year later if their parents felt they were not ready for school.

Please read the full article here.

children in school

PEDAL Centre Director meets Polish President Andrzej Duda

In June 2015, David Whitebread, Director of PEDAL, was invited by the Polish Parents' Rights Association as an expert in Primary and Early Years education to discuss why lowering their school entry age is likely to be ineffective or counterproductive.

Prof. David Whitebread in Poland. His research on early education invoked from the parliamentary rostrum Elbanowska Carolina.
Read full article. [Article in Polish]

david meeting

CSaP Play Workshop hosted at the Faculty of Education

In April 2015, the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) hosted a workshop at the Faculty of Education to explore what is known about the benefits of play in middle childhood. Sara Baker, Jenny Gibson, Marisol Basilio and David Whitebread represented PEDAL at this event. The aims of the workshop were: a) to discuss the strength of available evidence, both from academic and non-academic sources, on the benefits of play in middle childhood; b) to examine whether any benefits derived from play change with the transition from early to middle childhood; c) to determine where the evidence is weak and where research could productively be focused.

Please view the full report here.

children on a swing

Hong Kong Institute of Education and University of Cambridge Host Quality Childhood Conference International 2015

More than 200 scholars, policy makers and educators from Hong Kong and overseas gathered at The Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) in June 2015 for the opening of the two-day “Quality Childhood Conference International 2015”. Providing a platform on which to discuss research and experiences in the field, the conference is co-organised by the Centre for Childhood Research and Innovation (CCRI) and the Department of Early Childhood Education at HKIEd, and the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge with David Whitebread and Marisol Basilio. Marisol won the 'Best Paper' award for her paper entitled: 'How toddlers think with their hands: gestures as evidence of cognitive self-regulation in guided play with parents'.

Press release link and further info:

Hong Kong Institute of Education Collaborates

Award of Wellcome Trust seed funding: Baby talk

The Wellcome Trust is funding a collaboration between Elian Fink (PEDAL), Clare Hughes (Centre for Family Research) and many others on a project entitled “Baby Talk and Baby Blues: Harnessing Technology to Investigate Mechanisms of Influence of Parental Wellbeing on Infants”. Parents with post-natal depression are less likely to be responsive to their baby, and less likely to ‘speak’ to their baby, which can have a negative impact not only during infancy, but also later in childhood. The current project uses new technologically innovative ways of measuring parental ‘baby talk’ and parent-child interactions, such as ‘talk-pedometers’ and Android applications, in playful contexts. This information will then be used to help unpack the links between parent-infant interaction quality and social, emotional and cognitive development in early toddlerhood.

child playing

PEDAL team goes to LEGO Idea Conference

In April 2015 the PEDAL team, including Sara Baker, Jenny Gibson, Marisol Basilio and David Whitebread, attended the LEGO Idea Conference. Talks and workshops with participants working in research, charitable organizations and think tanks made for a very inspiring few days thinking about the challenges to changing perceptions of play around the world.

lego sign

Inspired Teaching Q&A

Inspired Teaching recently spoke with David Whitebread, PEDAL Centre Director, to ask him what “playful learning” is and why it is key to young people’s long term well being and success. Here is an excerpt from their conversation.

Inspired Teaching Q&A with Dr. David Whitebread

Inspired Teaching recently spoke with Dr. Whitebread to ask him what “playful learning” is and why it is key to young people’s long term well being and success. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.

child drawing

School Starting Age: The Evidence.

In March 2015 the "Too Much, Too Soon" campaign made headlines with a letter calling for a change to the start age for formal learning in schools. Here, one of the signatories, PEDAL Director David Whitebread, from the Faculty of Education, explains why children may need more time to develop before their formal education begins in earnest.

Read David Whitebread's article.

plastic numbers

What is the Point of Playing?

PEDAL's Presentation on 10 March 2015 at the Cambridge Science Festival.


Society for Research on Child Development Biennial Conference – PLaNS Poster

In March 2015 David Whitebread and Marisol Basilio presented a poster about the PLaNS project at the SRCD conference in Philadelphia, USA.


Director of Centre wins CUSU Award!

On the evening of Tuesday 12 May, CUSU presented their annual awards for outstanding university staff. The ceremony took place in the University Combination Room in the Old Schools with the Faculty of Education staff receiving three awards, including one for the PEDAL Director, David Whitebread, in recognition of his outstanding work as an MPhil and PhD supervisor.

David with students

[Photo/David with his wife Linda, younger daughter Sara, and his present students]