Natalie is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood at The Open University. Her background is in playwork and social work, supporting children to explore personal, social and emotional development through play. She has published within the field of professional development in the early childhood, children’s play, empowerment and creative spaces. She has taught across a variety of early childhood undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and has edited several books on Early Childhood practice including Young Children’s Play and Creativity: Multiple Voices (2017), Implementing Quality Improvement and Change in the Early Years (2012), Play and Practice in the Early Years Foundation Stage (2011) and Reflective Practice in the Early Years (2010).
Natalie's main research is centred on young children's play, especially how children are empowered in play. Using ethnographic and qualitative methods Natalie uses video as a tool for observation and analysis. This enables other 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 through an empowerment lens makes an original contribution to Early Childhood practice and research.
As well as developing a 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 has meant that professional practice in thinking and prioritising children's play has been enhanced and sustained through working with the conceptual framework for empowerment alongside curriculum goals.
Natalie has taught in a variety of institutions before joining the Open University in 2009. Her main teaching interests support the professional development of early childhood practitioners. She has expertise in work based learning and learning and teaching strategies for mature students supporting self-directed learning and development. She is chair of the level 1 module ‘Young children’s play and creativity’ and a core member of the Early Childhood team.
At the heart of her teaching interest is exploring children’s experiences and this is a key theme of the level 1 module ‘Young children’s play and creativity’. The module considers that play is universal and draws on research and debate to examine play and creative opportunities in a range of contexts.
Natalie has been a key note speaker at National early childhood conferences and involved in the Enriching Mathematics project at Cambridge University which promotes developing mathematical skills through play. She has supported many early childhood settings in the West Midlands and Devon and Cornwall in developing play policies and promoting play to parents. Her research has brought together like minded professionals to share their practice and has influenced change within a group of settings in the West Midlands.
|Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)||Centre||Faculty of Education and Language Studies|