THURSDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Interaction with teachers
plays a crucial role in pre-kindergarteners' development of
language and math skills, especially for children from low-income
families, finds a new study.
U.S. researchers looked at more than 2,700 children in public
pre-k programs in 11 states and categorized the children according
to how they spent most of their time in the classroom, including
free-choice play or individual or group teacher-directed activities
that focused on areas such as early literacy instruction and the
development of fine motor skills.
Children who focused on free-choice play spent little time on
academic activities and made smaller gains in language and math
than the children who took part in teacher-directed activities.
More than half of the children in the study spent the majority of
their time in free-choice play.
The findings suggest that free-play activities may not be best
for children's early development, the researchers said.
The study authors also found that children from low-income
families who received individual instruction from teachers made
greater gains in language and math skills than those who spent most
of their time in other activities. This supports the belief that
poor children do better in programs that focus on learning and
provide more individual instruction.
The study is published in the September/October issue of the
"If early childhood education is to level the playing field by stimulating children's academic development, more quality instructional time spent with teachers and less free-play time without teacher guidance may prepare children better for starting kindergarten," Nina C. Chien, a postdoctoral fellow in pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, said in a news release from the Society for Research in Child Development. "Our work has implications for policy and practice."
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers parents
activities to encourage speech and language