- Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University - https://developingchild.harvard.edu -

Community of Practice on Play

What is a Community of Practice?

A Community of Practice is a group of people who learn together over time as they work in areas of shared passion or concern. The goal of a Community of Practice is to identify and address shared challenges. By doing so, the community seeks not only to help individual members advance their own work, but also contribute to the larger field.

What do a researcher, museum leader, community program leader, teacher, and an urban architect all have in common? They’re all committed to tackling one important question: how can we better understand the science of play and its role in advancing children’s developmental outcomes and buffering them from the effects of toxic stress?

The Center’s Community of Practice on Play (CoPP) is dedicated to increasing the understanding, appreciation, and presence of play in the early childhood sector. The CoPP’s members include global and domestic researchers, practitioners, developers, non-profit leaders, and policymakers. The group works together to support cross-cutting, catalytic relationships among its members that will benefit individual work as well as generate insights that will contribute to the fields of play, learning, and early childhood more broadly.

The CoPP’s Activities

Plans for the CoPP began at the Center in September 2016 and resulted in the community of practice’s first in-person meeting in July 2017 in Cambridge, MA. Over two days, 30 diverse stakeholders in the field of play discussed four key areas of shared challenge and opportunity:

Urban Thinkscape transforms public spaces into opportunities for playful learning by infusing them with activities that challenge the mind while encouraging joyful interactions between children, parents, and caregivers.

CoPP members also plan to develop case studies, interviews, and video logs as a means of synthesizing and sharing the knowledge and work of the community with the field and the general public. The community’s first multimedia case study features Urban Thinkscape, an intervention that transforms public spaces into opportunities for playful learning. The Urban Thinkscape team is part of the CoPP and was selected because of the program’s unique, built environment that takes the science of play and applies it in a community setting. The Urban Thinkscape story also demonstrates the importance and benefits of co-creation in designing, implementing, and testing interventions—part of the Center’s IDEAS Impact Framework approach to innovation.

Currently Funded Projects


In this video, learn more about how play can foster children’s resilience to hardship, and how the complex interactions involved when children play help build their brains.

In an effort to build on the generative ideas and connections that were made at the July 2017 meeting, the CoPP offered its members the opportunity to apply for seed funding to help support ideas that can move the work of the community forward. Members submitted their ideas through an RFP process, and the CoPP, with support from the Lego Foundation, is currently funding the following promising projects: