Project Playground

Welcome to the Project Playground! A space where researchers specialising in play theory and toys are invited to showcase their projects. "Play is a preparation for the future" so I hope the opportunity to bring people together with common interests, will help build a playful reference library for future students and other researchers.


University of the Arts, London & Tokyo | Commenced July 2014
By Hiro Takeuchi

How can a self-build activity of three-dimensional object promote contextual understanding and encourage the educational relationship for children?

The product, which is made up of a self-build activity with a kit and textbook, will make it possible for children to understand subject areas, science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and additionally history. The kit is prefabricated by laser cutting, and carefully drawn to be assembled without any tools and limited (if any) adult support. The textbook describes the things to be prospectively understood from the kit, for instance, how to assemble it; what scientific principle the kit implies; what application of the principle can be found in daily life. The assembling activity will make the learning experience impressive and promote discussion between students, teachers and parents.

The first kit ‘Catapult’ is designed to explain the following subject areas. They all are clearly described in the textbook.

Science: The elastic force.

Technology: The recent applications of the elastic force.

Engineering: The instruction for building the kit by children.

Mathematics: How the projectile flies.

History: The historical background of medieval weapons.

STEAM project aims to offer students contextual understanding for several subject areas by their artistry and enhance communication with teachers and parents through assembling activity. Moreover, the project leaves an impression for them to choose future careers. The project’s title ‘STEAM’ is named as combination of the STEM education and Artistry.

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University of Brighton | Commenced January 2014
By Hayley Moisley

Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

SEAL, a government-issued guidance for Primary Education, is a comprehensive approach to promoting the social and emotional skills that underpin effective learning, positive behaviour, and the emotional health of children.

I have developed learning aids, characters and stories in collaboration with the curriculum to enhance the current resources, from two-dimensional, to three-dimensional. My designs have been developed through rigorous research with primary school teachers. My products are based on evidence that suggests children's learning increases when play is integrated.

One of the products I have designed is a Gordon the Gorilla teddy. He has interchangeable emotions with which children can play, and learn to gauge facial expression and emotions. These products are intended to be used across the board in classrooms, one to one counseling and to aid autistic children.

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Falmouth University, Cornwall | Commenced November 2014
By Sophie Wharton

My project is in collaboration with Wendover House School located in Wendover, Buckinghamshire. The school caters for boys between the ages of 11 through to 18 who have special educational needs for  emotional and behavioural difficulties. My project looks at the design of fidget tools for children with ADHD to help improve their concentration. Fidgeting has shown to help children with ADHD to focus on a specific task. Wendover House School have tried to use fidget tools before but they have been unsuccessful as they've been too distracting and the children have pulled them apart and thrown them around. I have designed a range of fidget tools that are engaging and fun and provide the right level of distraction to allow the child to focus on a specific task in hand.

"The body affects the brain as much as the brain affects the body." An activity that uses a sense other than that required for the primary task can enhance performance in children with ADHD. The five key points of the products are that they are: quiet, unobtrusive, tactile, safe and tools - not 'toys.'

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Falmouth University, Cornwall | 2011
By Daniella Pereira

My work as a curator is influenced by an educational context. I am interested in getting people, particularly children and young people, more involved in art. In addition I believe in the potential that art has to stimulate a greater understanding of the world. My curatorial strategies ten to use both these educational contexts. For me art is about asking questions, and not making statements. 

I enjoy working with practitioners from across different contemporary visual art and design disciplines, and with varying degrees of experience. I want to create challenging opportunities for artists and designers encouraging pollination between practitioners working in the creative industries.

I am intrigued and naturally curious about human behaviour; what makes people do what they do? As a curator I like to collaborate with practitioners to explore ways in which art might address such questions. I particularly think that interactive installations are interesting because interaction with an object can shed light on aspects of human behaviour and motivation.

The collaboration playTIME with designer Stacey Dix, studies people's reactions during play and how that can vary with the age of the participant as well as time. This is a participatory based event explaining the relationship between art, design and play. The project depends solely on audience participation.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever ~ Gandhi

You can learn more about a person in an hour of play, than a lifetime of conversation ~ Plato

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East Sussex | January 5th 2015
By Hayley Moisley

Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

Gordon the Gorilla's Friends is a progression from a recent project which concentrates on promoting the social and emotional skills that underpin effective learning, positive behaviour, and the emotional health of children. The first product was designed for in school use in collaboration with the curriculum. However Gordon the Gorilla's Friends are designed for use in the home as well as schools.

Designing a range of animal hand puppets allows parents to choose their children's favourite and will be able to connect with. Being in a puppet form, the children can play games with or without parents and friends. The puppets are a versatile toy for a number of scenarios, the sets of eyes and mouths create over two dozen expressions.

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University of the Arts, London | Commenced March 2014
By Ritika Jobanputra

How can the art of self-expression reach a wider audience of children through ‘play’ with sound + color?

Children experience the world and create meaning for themselves with their senses and movement, through everyday encounters. Play mirrors the way they learn through the natural experience of sensation, movement, imitation and exploration. Play is essential and one of the easiest ways through which children express their feelings and thoughts, both conscious and subconscious.

Today, a child’s involvement in creative and imaginative thinking is hindered by the easily available and distracting screen technology and pre-programmed toys leaving less time for hands-on creative play.

Sound and colour are both part of the expressive arts and have distinctive contributions to make. Play Machine is a low-tech creative, recreational and educational tool which combines both sound + colour, giving children the opportunity to actively engage and freely express themselves.

Through self-expression in play children resolve conflicts, express outwardly what they are experiencing internally.

(Erikson, 1977 cited in Schaefer & Drewes, 2014, p.16).

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University of the Arts, London | Commenced November 2013
By Georgiana Mihai

How can unproductive play benefit children?

For the past year I have dedicated my time to developing and testing a programme designed to give children, from any social, economical background, a chance to experience a type of play that is based on freedom of choice and unproductive thinking. I use the term ‘unproductive’ to describe an activity that has no expectations attached to it, without referring to something which is a waste of time and of no benefit. The intention is to focus on the process of play and not the outcome.

Why ‘Back to formlessness’ 

Formless is something that is lacking order, that has no form, and no restrictions.  It is something that hasn’t yet been patterned, but has an indefinite potential to be shaped. It is a form of beginning, that lives in us and to which we can go back whenever we feel trapped. Because of its uncertainty and feel of danger, adults suppress this state by setting rules, and drawing patterns which makes the child unable to play in the creative sense of the meaning. Allow the child to start unpatterned, uncut and unshaped, with no destination pre-established for him. To have the option to go back whenever he desires to that chaos inside himself, that gives him unlimited possibilities of creation and deconstruction. A state where he feels free in making choices and taking decisions, and doesn’t expect something permanent to come out of it. 

I created a workshop that involves the deconstructing and redesigning of old toys. I chose toys, because they are a familiar medium to children, complex and in the same time flexible to use. However, the activity does not exclude the participation of adults; everyone can join the challenge of exploring a formless self, where there’s no order, structures or restrictions.

The experience can be repeated in any environment and with any kind of materials. 

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University of the Arts, London | Commenced July 2013
By Ralph Barler

How can providing children with a workshop programme focused on play help to optimise creative potential?

IMPROV 2 IMPROVE is a workshop programme specifically designed to optimise the creative potential of children in the UK school system and bring more play based learning into the current curriculum. This intervention is based on educational psychology and focuses on the 7-11 age range. The project aligns with the ideas of the Too Much, Too Soon campaign launched by the Save Childhood Movement. This political advocacy group seeks to ‘re-establish the early years as a unique stage in its own right and not merely a preparation for school’ and ‘reinstate the vital role of play’ as an alternative to baseline testing, although my project looks at the later years of primary education.

By providing a structured weekly workshop programme (minimum three weeks) the aim of this project was to enhance and develop the child’s own creativity, building on their social skills as an access point for unleashing their creative drive. The programme was well informed and developed by adapting teambuilding activities sourced from areas such as theatrical improvisation, and the business environment.

I talked to a number of stakeholders who informed me that we have a real issue in our national school system of denigrating creativity. Children are currently measured half-termly on the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), with creative play experiences valued lower than a child’s academic success. However, when you start to look at brain development and the psychological implications that lack of play has on a child, research shows that the vocabulary developed in creative play contributes to the overall success of the child in the academic environment.

Working with schools in Surrey, Kent and Greater London, I looked at the impact of play workshops on the creativity and social skills of children aged 7-11. Using creativity tests, I was able to judge the impact of the workshop programme on the children and the extent to which their creativity was enhanced. Comparing results from the first and last week, my findings indicated that incorporating more play into the school curriculum helped develop a child’s creativity, fostering new skills learned through creative play and helping to enhance the social adjustment of the child in the academic environment.

This project looks at the relationship between play and child development. The aim of the project is to boost creativity in children by introducing a play workshop programme into the current academic curriculum.

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