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PEDAL – serious research about play


What is PEDAL?

Our mission is to conduct academic research into the role of play in young children’s lives and to inform wider practice and policy.  PEDAL is located in the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, and was launched in October 2015 with funding from the LEGO Foundation. PEDAL is part of the Psychology, Education and Learning Studies Research Group at the Faculty.


Why research play?

Play is an integral part of a happy childhood. All children and most adults engage in playful activities, including physical play, play with objects, symbolic play, pretence play and games with rules. At the minimum, it is clear that play is enjoyed by its participants, and this alone indicates it has motivational value in relation to learning.

However, beyond this, little has been scientifically established about the possible benefits of human playfulness. Through PEDAL's research, the role of play in children's education, development and learning will be more widely understood by those involved in their care and education. New insights will inform effective evidence-based policy and practice - and will unlock a source of knowledge and inspiration that will improve children's lives around the world. 


World-class research

PEDAL is directed by the LEGO Professor of Play, Paul Ramchandani. There are currently two other research area leaders in PEDAL, Dr Sara Baker and Dr Jenny Gibson

As well as producing new findings about play, PEDAL's research projects break new ground in terms of play research methodology. For example, we conduct field research in classrooms with teachers as ‘co-researchers’ and use GPS technology to look at how children’s social networks evolve in real time during play.

Our research is independent, peer-reviewed and rigorous.


Building capacity in play research

PEDAL offers PhD funding to students from around the world. We also mentor postdoctoral research associates and research assistants as they further their academic careers. The PEDAL team teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Faculty of Education.

PEDAL also hosts international seminars and conferences to share current thinking and contribute to scientific debates about play.


Influencing policy and practice

PEDAL's research aims to shape opinion, policy and practice. We communicate our findings to a variety of non-academic stakeholders, helping them to make informed choices about the role of play at home, in school and in wider society. 

Stakeholders include play advocacy charities; non-governmental organisations concerned with education and children's welfare; local and national government; think tanks; policy makers and government agencies; teachers unions, parents and carers; health professionals who work with children; funding bodies; opinion formers and the media.

If you would like to join the PEDAL mailing list and receive information about research, events and publications, please sign up here - and don't forget to follow PEDAL on Twitter.


Our research 

We have the following aims:

  • to build on the evidence base and measures already developed by PEDAL and others to produce the world’s leading research on play and its impact on child development and learning outcomes;

  • to adopt a cross‐disciplinary approach that moves play research into the mainstream of education and psychology, and makes it central to the field of child development and learning;

  • to design, develop and share tools and interventions that enable teachers, caregivers, and early career academics to improve play‐based research and practice in the UK and in developing countries; 

  • to disseminate validated guidance on the role of play in education, development and learning to support policymakers and governments in the UK and across the globe.