ABC's and 123's: The Role of the Home Learning Environment in Cognitive and Socioemotional Development in Early Childhood
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Play in early childhood is known to have benefits for children across cognitive and socioemotional domains. The purpose of this research was to examine factors that influence play and learning in the home environment in early childhood, including the contribution of family and other factors to both cognitive and socioemotional development. Many studies have focused on the benefits of activities for language and literacy outcomes, but less research has examined the effect of activities on other aspects of development, such as nonverbal reasoning or socioemotional outcomes. Another objective of the current research was to examine the effect of other factors on development, such as parental beliefs about play and learning, the quality of the home environment and parent and child engagement in different activities. Using a bioecological framework, the research included both a secondary analysis of the Growing Up in Ireland data, a nationally representative birth cohort study, as well as primary data collection, to further examine questions about parental beliefs, the home environment, and parent and child engagement in activities. Findings indicated that informal play activities such as games, painting and drawing, and reading have the largest effect on both cognitive and socioemotional development, in comparison with activities such as letter or number games. We also found that parent-child relationship factors of warmth, hostility and closeness, as well as parental beliefs about the positive value of play, are particularly important for socioemotional development. The findings highlight the importance of different types of playful activities, positive parent-child relationships and a rich home environment to support early childhood development. The implications of the findings for theory are discussed in the context of Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological model of development.
KeywordsHome learning environment
Parental roles in family life
Early childhood development
Play at home