Temple Infant & Child Laboratory | Playful Learning Landscapes
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Playful Learning Landscapes

Playful Learning Landscapes Overview


At the intersection of the global cities movement and the movement to optimize early education in and out of school, lies Playful Learning Landscapes.  Twenty-first Century Learning models will need to embrace a breadth of skills that allow children to succeed in a world of increasing uncertainty and change.  Projections suggest that by 2050 over 70% of the worlds’ children will be living in urban areas and that most of these children – over 825 million – will reach adulthood without even the basic secondary skills required to meet the workplace of today and tomorrow.


The general response to this inequality has been to enrich education through high quality universal preschools.  This is critical and the research suggests that it catapults children into better school readiness and beyond.   Yet – it is not enough. Learning today occurs in and out of the classroom and to date we have done little to capitalize on out of school time as a resource for children everywhere.  Children spend only 20% of their waking time in school. What are we doing with the other 80%?

Playful Learning Landscapes is one answer to that question that dovetails with Itai Palti’s Conscious Cities movement.  It asks how we can reinvent everyday experiences as fun learning opportunities that organically prompt the kinds of interactions that help children thrive.  It all started with a simple question: when is a bench not a bench? How can we literally change the architectural design of benches to infuse them with learning potential by adding puzzles that build science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills?  How can we change the everyday to make it more extraordinary.


If you would like more information about Playful Learning Landscapes, check out the website and give us feedback about the playbook!


PAPER: Bustamante, A. S., Hassinger‐Das, B., Hirsh‐Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2019). Learning Landscapes: Where the Science of Learning Meets Architectural Design. Child Development Perspectives13(1), 34-40.


PAPER: Schlesinger, M. A., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2019). Playful Learning Landscapes: Creating skill-building experiences in community spaces. Childhood Education, 95(4), 3-9. DOI: 10.1080/00094056.2019.1638704


PAPER: Hassinger-Das, B., Bustamante, A. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2018). Learning Landscapes: Playing the Way to Learning and Engagement in Public Spaces. Education Sciences, 8(2), 74.


PRESENTATION: Hirsh-Pasek, K. Learning Landscapes: Transforming cityscapes into opportunities for playful learning.


Photo Credit: Sahar Coston-Hardy

Imagine a human sized board game designed to maximize fun while learning about math and science.  Roll the dice to get a 6 and a half or a 3 and three quarters and progress along a board with challenge cards, a new kind of hop scotch and a way to test your athleticism. Sponsored by New Profit and designed by Nabil Shahidi, this board game is so much more than a game. It is a way to stimulate just the kinds of interactions that build strong skills for learning.




A library is a perfect spot to enhance with playful learning opportunities. Reading can come alive when it is nested into opportunities for dramatic play and play with words can gain currency on a new kind of rock climbing wall.  In Playbrary, we take early learning in language, literacy and STEM to new design levels where seating becomes tangram puzzles and children engage in language games. Sponsored by the Wm. Penn Foundation with lead team members DIGSAU, Studio Ludo, and Erector Sets, Inc.




Inspired by Candy Chang’s Before I Die art project, the playwall asks communities how they played when they were little.  This low cost intervention sponsored by the LEGO Foundation, sparked a new community conversation around play.  Follow-up dialogues will bring forth the learning value of the everyday games that populated the playwall within hours of its installation.

Supermarket Speak


The supermarket can be so much more than a place to buy food.  There’s learning in those aisles. Filled with labels and signs, numbers on aisles and cash registers, this project was designed as a low cost intervention to spark adult-child conversations.  Since conversations are the golden foundation for learning, supermarket speak becomes a vehicle for enriching language in our everyday spaces.  The Too Small To Fail initiative even tried this technique in laundromats and in playgrounds.

The Ultimate Block Party




The Ultimate Block Party aims to create a multi-pronged social movement that champions the importance of play and playful learning in children’s lives. We seek to ensure that all children are provided with competitive skills for the 21st century global world and to build a public groundswell about the value of play for fostering lifelong learning in the sciences and the arts. Our mission is to affect policy about children and the way we deliver education in our society by showing off how children learn skills and competencies like the 6Cs in a pop-up event highlighting the science of learning. For more information on events and the organization, please visit www.ultimateblockparty.com.


If you’d like more information about the Ultimate Block Party, check out this video


PAPER: Grob, R., Schlesinger, M., Pace, A., Golinkoff, R., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2017). Playing With Ideas: Evaluating the Impact of the Ultimate Block Party, a Collective Experiential Intervention to Enrich Perceptions of Play. Child Development., 88(5), 1419-1434.

Urban Thinkscape

Photo Credit: Sahar Coston-Hardy

Urban Thinkscape brings the benefits of playful learning, which combines the enjoyable nature of play with a learning goal, to a community, public setting of a bus stop. Examples include puzzles at bus stops that stimulate spatial skills; movable parts on park benches that become opportunities for exploring language, color, and numbers while on-site signage and this website connect families to additional information and resources about the links between play and learning.  Sponsored by the Wm. Penn Foundation and KaBOOM! with lead designer Itai Palti.


Instead of viewing streets and bus stops merely as conduits from point A to B, Urban Thinkscape creates connections between these shared everyday spaces and the people who occupy them.


For more information about Urban Thinkscape, check out the website.