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Play in early life

We’re developing playful ways to help lay the best foundation possible for babies and children across the globe.

Our vision for Play in Early Life

The Play in Early Life team strives to better understand how play develops starting right from the earliest years of life. We mostly focus on children’s play experiences with their closest caregivers and first teachers, with an aim to learn more about how children’s foundational years relate to their later learning and social and emotional development.

Our projects focus closely on:

  1. Adapting, developing, and running play-based programmes designed to improve children’s development
  2. Reviewing and bringing together findings from existing research, to help us map out the current landscape of play and identify the kinds of questions that still need to be answered.
  3. Developing new approaches to assess and measure caregiver-child play, with a special focus on using videos to understand family-based play.
Children enjoying playing with toys with their caregivers

Helping little minds to thrive

We're building a pathway of support for families and services to strengthen mental health in the earliest years. 

The Playtime with Books programme

We’re exploring how book sharing can help adults play and spend time with their little ones.

Students sat on the carpet with their teacher telling a story using puppets

Play in early teaching: The PlayBack programme

Our PlayBack programme uses videos of teachers and children playing in everyday situations to boost the child-teacher bond.

Mum and daughter laughing, with daughter putting her hands up to her mum's face

Play through childhood: Healthy Start, Happy Start

In the Healthy Start, Happy Start study, we have been following up 300 children since toddlerhood. This year we're going back to see them at 7-9 years of age!

School children and their teacher doing a lesson with bendy toys

Play for hands-on learning: Research reviews

We've carried out extensive literature reviews to explore how playful teaching approaches may be linked to children's learning.

Play in parenting: Measuring caregiver-child play

We're investigating how to measure parents' playfulness, with a special focus on their pretend play.