Dr Natalie Canning is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Development at The Open University, co-director of the Children’s Research Centre and Area Lead for Childhood and Youth on the professional doctorate programme. Her extensive experience in social work and using child play work philosophies and practice has assisted young children who have experienced various emotional and socio-economic challenges. This has greatly influenced her approach to early years teaching and research which include professional development of numerous early childhood professionals in relation to quality practice, self-motivated learning through child play to encourage a child’s natural curiosity and creativity.

Dr Canning is published within the field of professional development in the early childhood, children’s play, empowerment, and creative environments.

Some of her publications include:

  • Reflective Practice in the Early Years (2010)
  • Play and Practice in the Early Years Foundation Stage (2011)
  • Implementing Quality Improvement and Change in the Early Years (2012)
  • Young Children’s Play and Creativity: Multiple Voices (2017)
  • Children’s Empowerment in Play: Participation, Voice, and Ownership (2020)

Natalie’s main research is centred on young children’s play, and especially on how they are empowered in various ways through play.  Adopting an ethnographic and qualitative approach, she uses video as an essential tool for observation and in-depth analysis.  This allows other early years professionals and parents to view and learn from the data.  Her interest in children’s play preferences is distinctive because it focuses on how child-initiated interests can empower children.  Considering children’s decisions and choices when they play with personal empowerment makes an original contribution to early childhood practice and research.

Her latest work, Children’s Empowerment in Play: Participation, Voice, and Ownership, includes her new Child Empowerment Framework. As well as developing this conceptual framework for looking at children’s play through empowerment opportunities, her research supports new ways of thinking about play so that early childhood settings create greater opportunities for child-initiated, social play.  The implications of this have meant that professional practice in thinking and prioritising children’s play has been enhanced and sustained through working with this new framework for empowerment alongside curriculum goals.

If you are interested in being part of this ongoing research project, Natalie would love to hear from you via email at natalie.canning@open.ac.uk

Alternatively, if would like a free trial of the Child Empowerment Framework, just use the ILD trial button and we will be happy to arrange this for you.

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