Play in the Pandemic

An online exhibition celebrating children's creative resilience through play to the pandemic

About the Project

Launching in March 2022, Play in the Pandemic is an online exhibition celebrating how play empowered children's resilience, well-being, and creativity during the pandemic. The exhibition will showcase children's artworks, games and films across the UK that were submitted to the Play Observatory.


The National Observatory of Children's Play Experiences During COVID-19 is a research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Led by researchers from UCL Institute of Ecudation, the School of Education at the University of Sheffield, and the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL, it is supported by Great Ormond Street Hospital and the British Library. The Young V&A Museum in collaboration with the above partners will be developing an online exhibition into children's play from the data collated by UCL and University of Sheffield. To be delivered in March 2022


Play in the Pandemic will champion the role of play in children's lives. Framed by COVID-19, this online exhibition will explore how play enables children's resilience, creativity and well-being during crises. It will showcase chilren's artworks, films, games and interviews alongside objects from the Young V&A. Focused on the themes of Constructing, Exploring, Innovating, and Imagining, it will explore the play theories, provocations and creative solutions that children adopted in response to the pandemic. The exhibition will be a launchpad for visitors to explore new ways to think about play.


To deliver the online exhibition Play in the Pandemic in collaboration with UCL, University of Sheffield. The exhibition will provide a global platform to showcase the submissions to the Play Observatory's survey across 2020-21. The exhibition will identify key themes and content to promote modes of play and their benefits. Commissioned artwork and web designs will offer imaginative narrative journeys and interpretative approaches to the exhibition's content. It will provide a framework to connect examples for play with play theory and highlight the importance of play for children to thrive.

Project updates

21 March 2022

The value of co-design

Co-design is at the heart of our approach at Young V&A. Imbuing our projects with creative and dynamic content, interpretation, and outcomes. I was determined to employ this practise in the making of the Play...
10 March 2022

Research Data into Riveting Displays

How do you turn research data into the Young V&A’s first online exhibition?
21 October 2021

Play in the Pandemic

Young V&A is developing an online exhibition exploring the impact of the pandemic on how children play in partnership with UCL, University of Sheffield, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the British Library.

The Team

Professor John Potter

Principal Investigator / Project Lead

John Potter is Professor of Media in Education at University College London Institute of Education. His research, teaching and publications are in: new literacies, media education, play on and offscreen, curation and agency in social media, and the ch ... Read more

Katy Canales

Online Exhibition Producer, Young V&A Museum

Katy has worked in the museum sector for over 11 years, including six years at the Young V&A Museum. Katy's specialism is in children's clothing held at the Young V&A. She brings her experience of producing family-focused exhibitions, displays and pub ... Read more

Dr Valerio Signorelli


Dr Valerio Signorelli is an Architect by training and Lecturer in Connected Environments at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London. His research focuses on the notion and role of interface between digital ... Read more

Juliette Coquet and Sindi Breshani

Online Interaction Designers, Episod Studio

Episod Studio develops interactive entertainment content and thought-provoking digital games. Their projects have been exhibited at Tate Britain, Somerset House, and Young V&A. Currently, they are working on "Race for the Arctic", a video game set acr ... Read more

Marcus Walters

Designer and Illustrator

Marcus Walters is an award-winning designer and illustrator based in the UK. Since graduating from Central St Martin’s, London he has art-directed magazines co-founded an innovative design studio, New Future Graphic, launched fashion and homeware bran ... Read more

UCL and University of Sheffield Project Team

- Co-Investigator, Senior Research Fellow at UCL Institute of Education
- Co-Investigator, Lecturer in Education and Course Director of the BA in Education, Culture and Childhood, University of Sheffield
- Co-Investigator, Lecturer at UCL Institute of Education
- Co-Investigator, Research Associate, School of Education at the University of Sheffield
- Researcher, Research Associate, School of Education at the University of Sheffield

V&A Project Team

Sophie Sage
- Content Manager and Interpretation Producer, Young V&A
Catherine Ritman-Smith
- Head of Learning and Engagement, Young V&A
Joanna Norman
- Director of the V&A Research Institute, NAL and Archives

External Partners

Luke Turner and Sian Spencer-Little
- The Play Team at Great Ormond Street Hospital
Jonnie Robinson
- Lead Curator of Spoken English, British Library
Steve Roud
- Consultant Archivist, Folklorist and Librarian


Online Symposium: Pandemic play experiences: Practices |Activities |Objects |Texts

The ESRC funded project ‘A National Observatory of Children’s Play Experiences During COVID-19’ hosts an end-of-project symposium to share emergent findings and bring together those interested in young people’s play experiences during the pandemic.