Skip directly to content

Engaging Activities Enhance Childhood Learning

Several separate but converging lines of research have shown that active, physically engaging activities enhance learning in children, whereas passive exposure to impersonal media may actually slow development and hinder learning.

Understanding the variety of factors that shape learning--how it occurs, what is retained--can inform parents, teachers and decisionmakers about the trajectory that young children may follow during the course of development.

James Galloway, Sunil Agrawal and colleagues at the University of Delaware found that children's general language and motor development improve with enhanced mobility. In their work they developed a joystick mechanism that enables infants to drive a small, motorized robotic device. The researchers surmised that infants and young children who control their movements through the environment may be stimulated and learn about their world in a way that has a direct and lasting influence on their cognitive, social, language and motor abilities.

Another study from Chen Yu and Linda Smith of Indiana University shows how children learn words during the first few years of life. They found that children learn words for objects more readily when allowed to hold the object rather than just seeing the object held and labeled in front of them.

Collaborative research on the influences of digital media, including television, videos and computer games, on very young children from infancy to 6 years of age provides insights for parents and educators.

Findings suggest that young children may face challenges in understanding information contained in these media. One set of studies even found that slower language development was associated with the use of a popular early childhood video advertised as educational. However, the findings also suggest that children who actively engage in viewing television or videos with an adult who can label the content, ask questions and provide narration, gain more from the content than those viewing alone.

Images (1 of )

  • UD1 robot developers with child and robot
  • child and mother play at table
UD1 robot developers with the baby Zamboni.
University of Delaware
Two cameras located on the heads of mother and child collect visual information.
Chen Yu, Indiana University

Recent Award Highlights

a wikipedia-based language system provides definitions, synonyms and translations

Wikipedia and the meaning of words

Online encyclopedia used to help computer systems find the meaning of words

Research Areas: Computing, People & Society Locations: Texas
large numbers of indian scientists and engineers are choosing to return to their home country

Why some foreign-born researchers choose to return home

Career growth, cultural and familial connections draw scientists home

Research Areas: People & Society Locations: New Mexico Texas International