Learning activities at home in the early years of a kid’s life make an important difference to their achievement in school, a recent study has found. The study by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development suggested that children, whose parents provide them with learning materials like books and toys and engage them in learning activities and meaningful conversations in infancy and toddlerhood, are likely to develop early cognitive skills that can cascade into later academic success.
The study followed a group of children from birth through 5th grade to track the influence of early home learning environments on later cognitive skills and understand the factors that might explain long-term influences. “There is growing evidence for the power of early learning environments on later academic success,” said lead author Catherine Tamis-LeMonda. “Our study confirms that strong home learning environments arm children with foundational skills that are springboards to long-term academic achievement.”
Research showed that the home learning environment powerfully shapes children’s language and cognitive development. Children’s participation in learning activities, the quality of parent-child interactions, and the availability of learning materials like books and toys are three key features of the home learning environment that support language and pre-academic skills in early childhood.
The researchers found that early learning environments supported the emergence of pre-academic skills that persisted into early adolescence to predict children’s 5th grade academic skills. Pathways from early learning environments to later academic skill were similar for children from White, Black, Hispanic, English-speaking, and Hispanic Spanish-speaking backgrounds. Notably, learning environments were highly stable over the 10-year study, suggesting that the experiences parents provide their infants as early as the first year of life may solidify into patterns of engagement that either continue to support or impede children’s emerging skills.
The study highlights the importance of early childhood experiences for children’s skill development and long-term academic success, and reinforces the notion that families have a major influence on children’s academic outcomes. The researchers noted that the findings have implications for policy and practice, including the design of interventions for young children and parents from disadvantaged backgrounds. The study is published online in the journal Applied Developmental Science.