No longitudinal studies have yet to be conducted on outcomes for children who have taken part in full-time Anji Play programs. A large body of individual case studies and anecdotal evidence, along with the support of current research, has allowed the educators and administrators of Anji to focus their time on developing the practice and approach rather than on measuring program outcomes.

While Anji educators are not focused on designing or implementing peer-reviewed systems of quantitative research, we welcome researchers to learn more about the work of Anji Play, and encourage all researchers to share research proposals and ideas with us here.

In Anji Play programs, teachers and children are both engaged in a constant process of discovery, hypothesis-generation, and reflection. Therefore, both children and teachers in Anji Play programs are engaged in a constant process of research.

We often describe traditional academic research as non-practitioners describing practice. Below we have included links to presentations by well-known educators and researchers at the 1st International True Play Conference: TruePlay2019,* and a bibliography of important research that describes the role of risk in play and learning, theories of cognitive development, and the relationship between block-play and literacy.

*Full conference videos, including Q&A sessions, practitioner presentations, and presentations by Ms. Cheng can be accessed here.


Research Presentations on the Philosophy and Practice of Anji Play (video)

Deep Learning in Anji Play
Professor Feng Xiaoxia, Beijing Normal University

Anji Play: Inspiration for Deepening Chinese Educational Reform
Professor Li Jimei, East China Normal University

Anji Play: Making the Invisible Visible in Framing and Play-based Curriculum
Dr. Doris Cheng, Tung Wah College, Hong Kong

Humans Need Play: the Contributions of Anji Play (and some concerns)
Dr. David Whitebread, University of Cambridge (retired), UK

Anji Play in Context
Dr. Frances Rust, New York University

Anji Play and the Cultural-historical Theory of Lev Vigotsky
Dr. Nikolay Veraksa, Moscow State University

Rethinking Risk: Are Children Too Safe for Their Own Good?
Dr. Mariana Brussoni, University of British Columbia

Observation and Documentation of Children’s True Play: Some Research Questions to Consider
Dr. Peter Mangione, WestEd

What can research(ers) learn from (Anji) play?
Dr. Andreas Roepstorff, Aarhus University, Denmark

And presentations by:

Professor Hua Aihua, East China Normal University

Dr. Lawrence Cohen, Playful Parenting

Dr. Tovah Klein, Barnard College, New York

Dr. Mitchel Resnick, MIT

Dr. Rona Jualla van Oudenhoven, Durham Children’s Aide Society, Canada

Dr. Nico van Oudenhoven, International Chid Development Initiatives

Dr. Yan Chaoyun, Sichuan Normal University

Beneficial Risk

Brussoni, M., Gibbons, R., Gray, C., Ishikawa, T., Sandseter, E. B. H., Bienenstock, A., Chabot, G., Herrington, S., Janssen, I., Pickett, W., Power, M., Stranger, N., Sampson, M., & Tremblay, M. S. (2015). What is the relationship between risky outdoor play and health in children? A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(6),6423-6454. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph120606423 (Available at:

Brussoni, M., Olsen, L.L., Pike, I., & Sleet, D.A. (2012). Risky play and children’s safety: Balancing priorities for optimal child development. International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health, 9, 3134-3148.

Gurholt, K. P., & Sanderud, J. R. (2016). Curious play: children’s exploration of nature. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1-12.

Lavrysen, A., Bertrands, E., Leyssen, L., Smets, L., Vanderspikken, A., & De Graef, P. (2015). Risky-play at school. Facilitating risk perception and competence in young children. European Early Childhood.

Little, H., Wyver, S., & Gibson, F. (2011). The influence of play context and adult attitudes on young children's physical risk‐taking during outdoor play.European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 19(1), 113-131.

Niehues, A. N., Bundy, A., Broom, A., Tranter, P., Ragen, J., & Engelen, L. (2013). Everyday uncertainties: reframing perceptions of risk in outdoor free play. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 13(3), 223-237.

Sandseter, E. B. H., & Kennair, L. E. O. (2011). Children's risky play from an evolutionary perspective: The anti-phobic effects of thrilling experiences.Evolutionary Psychology, 9(2), 147470491100900212.

Sandseter, E. B. H. (2007). Categorising risky play—how can we identify risk‐taking in children's play?. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 15(2), 237-252.

Sandseter, E. B. H. (2009). Affordances for risky play in preschool: The importance of features in the play environment. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(5), 439-446.

Sandseter, E. B. H. (2009). Characteristics of risky play. Journal of Adventure Education & Outdoor Learning, 9(1), 3-21.

Sandseter, E. B. H. (2009). Risky play and risk management in Norwegian preschools—A qualitative observational study. Safety Science Monitor, 13(1), 1-12.

Sandseter, E. B. H. (2014). Early childhood education and care practitioners' perceptions of children's risky play; examining the influence of personality and gender. Early child development and care, 184(3), 434-449.

Causal Theory

Buchsbaum, D., Bridgers, S., Weisberg, D. S., & Gopnik, A. (2012). The power of possibility: Causal learning, counterfactual reasoning, and pretend play. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 367(1599), 2202-2212.

Cook, C., Goodman, N. D., & Schulz, L. E. (2011). Where science starts: Spontaneous experiments in preschoolers’ exploratory play. Cognition, 120(3), 341-349.

Gopnik, A., & Bonawitz, E. (2015). Bayesian models of child development.Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 6(2), 75-86.

Gopnik, A., & Walker, C. M. (2013). Considering counterfactuals: The relationship between causal learning and pretend play. American Journal of Play, 6(1), 15.

Gopnik, A., Glymour, C., Sobel, D. M., Schulz, L. E., Kushnir, T., & Danks, D. (2004). A theory of causal learning in children: causal maps and Bayes nets.Psychological review, 111(1), 3.

Gopnik, A. (1990). Developing the idea of intentionality: Children's theories of mind. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 20(1), 89-113.

Gopnik, A. (1996). The Post-Piaget era. Psychological Science, 7, 4, 216-221. (Special Piaget Centennial Issue).

Gopnik, A. (1996). The scientist as child. Philosophy of Science, 63, 4, 485-514.

Gopnik, A. (2012). Scientific thinking in young children: Theoretical advances, empirical research, and policy implications. Science, 337(6102), 1623-1627.

Gopnik, A. & D. Sobel (2000). Detecting blickets: How young children use information about novel causal powers in categorization and induction. Child Development, 71, 5, 1205-1222.

Gopnik, A. & H. M. Wellman (in press). Reconstructing constructivism: Causal models, Bayesian learning mechanisms and the theory theory. Psychological Bulletin.

Gopnik, A. & H. Wellman (1992). Why the child’s theory of mind really is a theory. Mind and Language, 7, 145-171. Reprinted in M. Davies and T. Stone (Eds.) (1995) Folk psychology: The theory of mind debate. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Schulz LE, Bonawitz EB. Serious fun: Preschoolers engage in more exploratory play when evidence is confounded. Developmental Psychology. 2007; 43(4):1045–1050.

Weisberg, D. S., & Gopnik, A. (2013). Pretense, counterfactuals, and Bayesian causal models: Why what is not real really matters. Cognitive science, 37(7), 1368-1381.

Literacy & Block Play

Christakis, D. A., Zimmerman, F. J., & Garrison, M. M. (2007). Effect of block play on language acquisition and attention in toddlers: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 161(10), 967-971.

Cohen, L., & Uhry, J. (2007). Young children's discourse strategies during block play: A Bakhtinian approach. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 21(3), 302-315.

Cohen, L. E. (2015). Layers of Discourse in Preschool Block Play: An Examination of Children’s Social Interactions. International Journal of Early Childhood, 47(2), 267-281.

Eslami, Z. R., & Snow, M. The Use of Reading and Writing Materials by Bilingual and Monolingual English-Speaking Students in a Literacy-Enriched Block Center.

Ferrara, K., Hirsh‐Pasek, K., Newcombe, N. S., Golinkoff, R. M., & Lam, W. S. (2011). Block talk: Spatial language during block play. Mind, Brain, and Education, 5(3), 143-151.

Hanline, M. F. (2001). Supporting Emergent Literacy in Play-based Activities.Young Exceptional Children, 4(4), 10-15.

Neuman, S. B., & Roskos, K. (1990). Play, print, and purpose: Enriching play environments for literacy development. The Reading Teacher, 44(3), 214-221.

Neuman, S. B., & Roskos, K. (1992). Literacy objects as cultural tools: Effects on children's literacy behaviors in play. Reading Research Quarterly, 203-225.

Phelps, P., & Hanline, M. F. (1999). Let's Play Blocks!: Creating Effective Learning Experiences for Young Children. Teaching Exceptional Children,32(2), 64.

Pickett, L. (1998). Literacy learning during block play. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 12(2), 225-230.

Roskos, K., & Christie, J. (2001). Examining the play–literacy interface: A critical review and future directions. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 1(1), 59-89.

Roskos, K. (1988). Literacy at work in play. The Reading Teacher, 41(6), 562-566.

Stroud, J. E. (1995). Block play: Building a foundation for literacy. Early Childhood Education Journal, 23(1), 9-13.

Wellhousen, K., & Giles, R. M. (2005). Building Literacy Opportunities into Children's Block Play What Every Teacher Should Know. Childhood Education, 82(2), 74-78.