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Lego's first pedagogical playmaster Paul Ramchandani. Photo: Morris Zwi

Lego’s inaugural professor of play revealed

In 2015, worldwide coverage was generated when it was announced that recruitment was underway for a professor of Lego. This was the scene-stealing headline but the grant of £4 million (AU $6.8 million) given to the University of Cambridge by the Lego Foundation had a more serious intent and was not only meant for the recruitment of a Lego professor but also to found the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development & Learning (PEDAL).

Two years on and finally the appointment has been made. Paul Ramchandani, currently professor of child and adolescent mental health at Imperial College, in London, has been announced as the inaugural appointee. Ramchandani will take up the role of Lego professor of play in education, development and learning in January 2018. He has spent 15 years researching child development, particularly the prevention of emotional and behavioural problems in the early years of life.

The professorship will help develop research into the impact of play in a child’s development as well as looking at how play (or learning disguised as play) can assist children in developing what the Centre describes as 21st century skills (to be independent, creative thinkers, problem solvers as well as good collaborators and communicators).

Whilst the importance of play is often advocated amongst parents and early learning childcare workers, it is an under-researched area with many definitions. PEDAL will examine play scientifically to help understand the importance of play in early childhood and to see if research can show correlations between the positive impact of play on brain development and learning outcomes.

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. An invigorated research effort in this area will constitute a significant contribution to understandings about the importance of play and the development, internationally, of high quality education, particularly in the area of early childhood.”

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