Exploring Play & Creativity in Pre-schoolers Use of Tablet Apps 

January 2015- June 2015
Funded by ESRC
PI Jackie Marsh, University of Sheffield, Co-Is: Dylan Yamada-Rice and Julia Bishop, University of Sheffield, Lydia Plowman, University of Edinburgh

I was a Co-Investigator for this project whilst previously employed by the University of Sheffield. The study was a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, the BBC children’s television channel CBeebies, children’s television production company Foundling Bird, development studio and consultancy company Dubit and Monteney Primary School, Sheffield.

The aims of the study were to examine pre-school children’s use of apps on tablets and identify how far apps for pre-school children (aged 0-5), including apps that incorporate augmented reality, promote play and creativity. 

In Phase 1 of the study, 2000 parents of children aged 0-5 who had access to tablets completed an online survey. Phase 2 consisted of case studies conducted of six families with children aged from birth to five. Five visits were made to each family over a period of one to three months and interviews with parents were conducted, children were filmed using tablets and in some cases parents collected data between visits using their own smartphones and/or a ‘Go-Pro’ chestcam (to be used by the child) left by the researcher. In Phase 3, children in Foundation Stage 1 and 2, aged 4-5, were filmed as they used a series of apps. The apps used were those identified as the top 10 favourite apps in the survey conducted in Phase 1, along with a selection of other apps that were appropriate for the age group, including augmented reality apps. The data from Phase 2 and 3 were analysed in order to determine how far the apps promoted play and creativity. This report outlines preliminary findings from the survey, along with a review of those features of apps that were identified as promoting play and creativity.

This summary of key findings has been prepared for the children’s media industry; future reports in this series will be completed for other audiences including academics, parents and carers, early years practitioners and policy-makers. Further details below. 

Related Publications

Marsh, J. A., Plowman, L., Bishop, J, Lahmar, J and Scott, F, Yamada-Rice, D. (2018), Play and creativity in young children’s use of apps. British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 49 No.4.

Marsh, J. & Yamada-Rice, D. (2016) 'Bringing Pudsey to Life: Young children’s use of augumented reality apps'. In: Kucirkova, N. & Falloon, G. (eds) Apps, Technology and Younger Learners: International evidence for teaching. Routledge

Marsh, J., Plowman, L., Yamada-Rice, D., Bishop, J. & Scott, F.(2016) Digital play: a new classification Early Years an International Research Journal, Vol, 36 (3). p. 242-253.

Related Talks

Invited keynote: Digital Technologies to Aid Children’s Learning, Asian Fesitival of Children’s Content, Singapore, 30 May 2015.

Guide for the Media Industry 

Guide for Early Years Practioners 

Guide for Parents & Caregivers

Guide for Policy Makers