Smartphone app boosts pre-school children's development

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An app to help parents support their children’s learning has been found to have a positive impact on children’s development, skills and abilities.


The EasyPeasy app sends parents ideas for games and activities

A trial of the EasyPeasy parenting app led by the University of Oxford and involving 302 families with children aged two to five years old from eight children’s centres in Newham,  all in disadvantaged areas, found the app to have positive effects on children’s concentration levels, determination and ability to make their own decisions.

EasyPeasy is a smartphone app for parents of young children that sends game ideas and tips on child development. The app is only available to parents through schools, nurseries and children’s centres that have registered to use it.

Parents and carers who took part in the trial used the app for three months. They were sent short video clips with ideas of games to play with their child, along with brief written instructions and a series of text reminders encouraging them to try out the games.

Findings from the trial, which was funded by the Sutton Trust and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation’s Parental Engagement Fund, revealed:

  • Using the app had a positive impact on children’s development and improved skills including concentration levels, determination and ability make their own decisions.
  • Parents reported that their children got better at persisting with difficult tasks, making decisions independently, and working things out for themselves.
  • The app had a positive impact on parents’ sense of control, with parents reporting that they felt more able to get their child to behave well and respond to boundaries.

The findings build on similar results from an earlier evaluation of EasyPeasy, carried out with parents in Bournemouth, which found the app positively benefited children’s cognitive self-regulation and parents’ setting of boundaries.

The Sutton Trust says the findings are an important step towards understanding effective ways for parents to support their child’s early learning at home and help them get ready for school.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation and of the Sutton Trust, said, ‘We know that the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest pupils begins before they’ve started school, and is a strong predictor of future outcomes in education and well-being. Tackling this gap early on is critical to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and improving social mobility.

‘It is vital that parents engage with their child’s learning and development, but this can sometimes be difficult. It is very encouraging therefore to see the promising findings that EasyPeasy is having a positive impact on both parents and children.’

Julian Grenier, headteacher of Sheringham Nursery School, which used EasyPeasy as part of the trial, said, ‘EasyPeasy is a 21st century approach that builds on the longstanding traditions of nursery education and community work with families. We know that parent support at home makes the biggest difference of all and EasyPeasy helps us to share these messages with parents in an accessible way. Parents tell us that they like the app and they enjoy the activities with their children.’

Professor Kathy Sylva, lead evaluator from the University of Oxford, added, ‘Sending game ideas via an app offers a new and innovative way to support parents, reaching them directly in the home. The two evaluations of EasyPeasy provide promising evidence that this mode of delivery can really work.’

  • Nurseries, schools and children’s centres can sign up to a free trial of EasyPeasy here
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