Want to help your child achieve later in life? A recent (2019) study from Purdue University finds that parents who interact with their baby often and positively can help impact their future success.
The study was large, complex and long term. With a sample of over 1,300 families, parent and child interactions were documented when the children were six, 15, 24 and 36 months old. The children were then analyzed through achievement test scores until the age of 15.
In the families where the parent or caregiver practiced “stimulating and responsive care” in the first three years of life, there was a significant boost in cognitive development. While the “boost” fell away a bit once formal school began, it remained detectable until the age of 15. The researchers plan to continue following the sample until the subjects reach the age of 25.
What Got the Boost?
The most interesting finding in the study: it wasn’t just vocabulary or reading comprehension scores that increased.
“The study also found that children who had less stimulating or responsive interactions with caretakers or mothers performed poorly in mathematics later in life, and having high-quality interactions appear to buffer against this effect,” reported the Child Trends News Service.
In other words, the more you interact with your baby and young child, the better they do academically across the board.
Best Ways to Interact with Baby? Optimal Interactions Are Easy
According to the study’s authors, just talking to your child often is a great start. Another piece of the puzzle might involve keeping screens to a minimum, as it’s human interaction, including reading aloud to them, that boosts the benefits.
“By stimulating and responsive care, we mean behaviors such as regularly talking to infants and toddlers in ways that are attuned to their interests,” study authors Robert Duncan and Deborah Vandell wrote in Child and Family blog. “In our observational tests, which involved playing with toys, researchers looked for adult behaviors that engaged with the young children’s play, where the adults stayed sensitively involved, neither ignoring the child nor taking over the play.”
Reading stories aloud, playing games, and remaining warm and encouraging are all positive interactions with your child that will garner big benefits down the road.
And it’s not just about the parents. The study’s findings also emphasize the importance of these interactions in early childcare and education. The authors hope its findings will be incorporated into future childcare policy decisions.
“This unusually large and lengthy study of child cognitive development suggests that policymakers and practitioners should take a long, hard look at how they provide resources to support children, parents, and caregivers during the first three years,” Duncan and Vandell wrote.