Lifestyle Parents’ activities at playtime make a difference to learning

Parents’ activities at playtime make a difference to learning

Ever wondered if your child is paying attention when you calculate change on a shopping trip or read words aloud from a cookbook or a street sign?

As it turns out, even if you are doing those tasks in the background, watching you can help stimulate your child’s interest in literacy and numeracy.

A new study from Macquarie University shows that children want to learn the kinds of skills they see their parents engaged in.

Lead researcher Dr Yeshe Colliver, a lecturer at Macquarie University’s Institute of Early Childhood, said the results of the recent study reverses the traditional view that the best way for children to learn is to link education to their existing interests.

Rather than looking at how adults can follow the child’s interests and link them to learning, Dr Colliver thinks adults could be the ones with the power to change what children are interested in.

The researchers exposed four-year-olds to demonstrations of literacy and numeracy in everyday life, while a control group had the same materials to play with but no demonstrations.

While children were doing other things, parents and educators did activities linked to literacy and numeracy in the background.

After just four weeks, the children began to play more with literacy and numeracy concepts, and their reading abilities improved.

“Our findings indicate the common view that parents and educators have little influence on what kids are interested in is untrue,” Dr Colliver said.

“Educational toys – such as chalkboards, coloured blocks for patterning or tool sets – may be a good option after all, if adults also use similar tools in everyday life,” she said.

But, she said, making the toys meaningful to life is key.

“While an action figure may have limited value, so might “educational toys” if parents force children to use them.”

You can read more about this study here. Story credit: Macquarie University Newsroom

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