A Project of the Child Trends News Service Supported by the National Science Foundation

School Success Starts at Home

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Parents who stock their homes with toys, books, and craft supplies aren’t merely finding ways to keep their young kids occupied. Child psychologists say that these items may become the building blocks for academic success.

Rory and his little brother Auggie are always wrist deep in their bucket of Legos.

“I love that they can create different things over and over,” detailed their mom, Kate Whoriskey.

Or they’re together, noses buried in a book. Mom believes in plenty of choices.

“We have cookbooks in this room and books in our bedroom and in the boy’s bedroom, books everywhere,” Whoriskey told Ivanhoe.

Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, PhD, a development psychologist at NYU, and her colleagues followed 2,200 children of families from ethnically diverse, low-income backgrounds. Social scientists visited the homes at 14 months, two and three years, and at pre-kindergarten. They looked at reading and storytelling activities, learning materials in the home, and the mother’s interactions. Researchers measured kids’ skills at pre-K, and again in fifth grade.

Tamis-LeMonda explained, “Those children who had positive early learning environments in fifth grade did better than your average kid from a middle-income household would.”

The findings suggest that a strong early learning environment can offset the stressors of poverty. Tamis-LeMonda said parents do not need to spend a lot of money. Borrow books, games, and toys from the library. Trade kids’ books with friends or make them from an old magazine.

“It’s the actual interaction that matters,” said Tamis-LeMonda.

The research found that early learning environments were stable over the 10-year period of the study. Researchers say that this suggests that the playtime and learning experiences that parents give kids in the first year of life may turn into patterns that continue to support their children’s developing academic skills.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Bob Walko, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

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