A new 15-year study shows that the ways parents play with their children at age 2 has a direct correlation with how well they perform academically throughout their school years. Researchers from Utah State University's department of Family, Consumer and Human Development (FCHD) followed 229 children from low-income families. Mothers, fathers, or both parents played regularly with the children, and some of the children also received Early Head Start educational experiences.
The study isolated four types of play that had a direct effect on later academic performance:
- Encouraging and engaging in pretend play
- Presenting activities in an organized sequence of steps
- Elaborating on the pictures, words, and actions in a book or on unique attributes of objects
- Relating play activity or book text to the child's experience
The role of each parent also was a factor. The researchers looked at two different family types, those who lived with biological fathers and those who didn't. They found that in both these family situations, children perform better academically when mothers teach more during play with their toddlers. When live-in biological fathers teach during play with their toddlers, they make an additional positive contribution to their child's 5th grade math and reading performance.
Image: Mother and daughter playing with blocks, via Shutterstock.