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, 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.


Towards a Pedagogy of Play

A resource from Pedagogy of Play

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

A resource from Pedagogy of Play

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

A resource from Pedagogy of Play

Toward a South African Pedagogy of Play

A resource from Pedagogy of Play

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

A resource from Pedagogy of Play

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

A resource from Pedagogy of Play


Welcome to the Pedagogy of Play (PoP) teacher education resource webpage. Here you will find materials for a 14-session course to introduce pre-service teacher candidates playful learning. Materials on this page include:

The materials were created with the support, collaboration, and feedback from over 30 teacher educators from around the globe. Feel free to adapt and hack the materials as you see fit, using all or some of the course sessions. The materials can also be adapted to use with in-service educators to promote their professional learning.

  • An instructor guide with detailed information about each course session
  • A course syllabus that can be shared with teacher candidates
  • PowerPoint slides for each course session
  • Activity Cards and Assignments that supplement information in the instructor guide
  • Suggested readings
  • Library of classroom videos from a range of age groups and geographies that can promote discussions of playful learning
Course Objectives (Click to expand)

Here are the course objectives shared with students in the syllabus:

Through this course, you will learn:

  • WHY play is a core resource for learning
  • WHAT play looks and feels like in different cultural contexts
  • HOW educators can promote play and playful learning in schools, including practices and strategies for teaching and assessing learning through play
  • To understand and address social justice and equity issues associated with learning through play with teacher research and equity-centered teaching
  • To advocate for play as critical to children’s development and learning in schools
  • To use Playful Participatory Research to reflect on and deepen learning through play

Students will work toward these goals by exploring and discussing theoretical and empirical literature on play, engaging in playful learning activities, and viewing examples of play from real classrooms.


Act 1 Why do we need a Pedagogy of Play?

1 Course Overview
  • Through the Play Autobiography, students will begin to think about the relationship between play and learning through the lens of their personal experiences and their classmates
  • Students will learn about the Principles of a Pedagogy of Play, using the hands-on Light and Shadow activity and video examples to unpack each principle

Session 1 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 1 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

2 Frameworks and Theories to Understand Play
  • Through reading and class lecture/discussion, your students will learn about the neuroscience research that exists to understand how learning through play affects our brains
  • Through discussion, your students will learn about prominent theories about play and playful learning and understand that theories are tools that can help educators plan for and interpret playful learning
  • Through the Play Theory Gameshow, your students will practice using a range of play theories to interpret video examples of children’s play

Session 2 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 2 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

3 Equity and Play
  • Through reading and class lecture/discussion, students will explore how play can be a medium that supports children’s dispositions towards fairness and justice—how they must ensure playful learning experiences in school are open to all

Session 3 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 3 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

4 Introduction to Playful Participatory Research; Advocating for Play
  • Knowing that students may face skepticism on the part of families, administrators, and/or colleagues about playful learning, students will explore ways to advocate for play
  • Introduce Playful Participatory Research through discussion of teacher research articles
  • Use an activity to learn about documentation and help students identify a research question for the semester

Session 4 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 4 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

Act 2 What does learning through play look and feel like in different cultural contexts?

5 Playful Learning in Different Cultural Contexts: Part 1
  • Through readings, video, and discussion, students will learn that while there are general features, playful learning is also culturally determined
  • In order to illustrate cultural variations of playful learning, students will be introduced to the indicators of playful learning from several contexts

Session 5 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 5 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

6 Playful Learning in Different Cultural Contexts: Part 2
  • By sharing their Advocating for Play assignments, students will learn from and with each other about promoting playful learning
  • Through readings, reflections on their play, and conversations with classmates, students will continue to explore how playful learning is influenced by culture

Session 6 PowerPoint Slides (PPT) Session 6 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

7 Technology, Remote Learning, and Play
  • Students will learn about recommendations for technology and screentime use, try out a tech-based playful learning tool, and consider what playful learning with technology looks and feels like
  • Through readings and discussion, students will consider what playful remote learning involves

Session 7 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 7 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

8 Play for All: Inclusive Playful-Classrooms
  • Students will learn or revisit definitions of inclusion, dis/ability, and bilingualism
  • Through reading, watching video examples, and discussion, students will build an understanding of what playful learning looks like in inclusive classrooms
  • In inquiry groups, students will begin to share documentation with colleagues and use the Looking Playfully at Documentation protocol to guide their Playful Participatory Research

Session 8 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 8 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

Act 3 How can we promote a Pedagogy of Play?

9 Pedagogy of Play Practices and Strategies
  • Revisit key concepts in the course so far through a playful activity (mad lib)
  • Introduce students to the Pedagogy of Play practices and share examples of these from classrooms
  • Make connections between the local learning standards in your context and the PoP practices. Engage students in planning learning experiences using these practices for inspiration

Session 9 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 9 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

10 Scaffolding Play or Play in the Learning Domains
  • Today is all about learning how to scaffold and facilitate play, ensuring that learners explore and learn concepts in specific learning domains (e.g., literacy, mathematics, science) through play

Session 10 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 10 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

11 Playful Learning Environments
  • Think about how to use the learning environment to foster playful learning
  • Look at examples of indoor and outdoor playful learning environments
  • Consider risky play
  • Connect all of this to the PoP Practices

Session 11 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 11 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

12 A Playful Pedagogy in Action: Storytelling and Story Acting
  • Take a deep look at one of the PoP Teaching Practices: Encourage Imaginative Thinking
  • Learn a strategy called Storytelling and Story Acting, which was developed by Vivian Gussin Paley, and think about how to use this playful teaching approach with your learners

Session 12 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 12 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

13 Practices Deep Dive
  • To dig into some of the PoP practices and take more time to see examples of these in action
  • To envision and practice using the PoP practices in current or future classrooms

Session 13 PowerPoint Slides (coming soon)

Session 13 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 13 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

14 Playful Participatory Research Celebration
  • Wrap up and celebrate the Playful Participatory Research process by sharing research processes and findings with the group

Session 14 PowerPoint Slides (PPT)

Session 14 PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

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Project Info

FUNDER: The Lego Foundation