Giving Compass' Take:

• Research from Brookings on early education reveals the importance of playful learning environments and identifies three main characteristics of the playful learning landscape. 

• What elements of playful learning environments will be most crucial to addressing educational disparities between low-income and high-income students?

• Read about the benefits and nuances of flexible learning environments. 

Research has shown that by 2030, over half the world’s youth—nearly 884 million young people—will not have acquired the basic secondary-level skills they need to succeed in work and life.

While this challenge is smaller in high income countries like the United States than in the developing world, even in the U.S. deep economic disparities among families are leading to large gaps in educational outcomes. Research has shown that as early as age three, low-income children tend to lag behind their wealthier peers in language and spatial skills, deficits that often stay with them as they move through school.

For the past several years, Brookings has looked at how education innovations can help leapfrog or rapidly accelerate education progress so that all young people have the skills needed to thrive. One way to do this is through diversifying where and with whom children learn. The development of playful learning landscapes is one example of doing just that: consciously designing physical environments to promote children’s development and caregiver interaction, while allowing them to have fun at the same time.

Three elements characterize the playful learning landscapes approach:

  • Rooted in science. Research on playful learning has shown that children learn best in active, engaged, meaningful, and interactive contexts.
  • Embodies placemaking. While the chief objective of playful learning landscape is to improve children’s learning and development, it also has a powerful ability to transform physical spaces.
  • Focuses on people and community. The design, development, and ongoing maintenance of playful learning landscapes installations are done in partnership with caregivers, community members, and neighborhood businesses and organizations.

Read the full article about playful learning landscapes by Jennifer S. Vey and Rebecca Winthrop at Brookings.