Parental Supports for the Development of Preschoolers' Skills through Play

Open Access
Borriello, Giulia Alexandra
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Lynn Susan Liben, Thesis Supervisor
  • David A. Rosenbaum, Honors Advisor
  • Spatial Skills; Mother-Child Interactions; Play
This study sought to determine whether parental spatial language use could be enhanced in a play context. The project involved an experimental test of whether giving parents different contexts for play led parents to engage in different kinds of play with their preschoolers. First, spatial skills of both parents and children were tested individually in a pre-test using various spatial tasks. In the experimental trial, parent-child dyads (N= 20) played collaboratively with various toys: a set of jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, LEGO blocks with a booklet of buildings and a Tangrams, each for a given period of time. This play situation fostered an informal learning environment that potentially promotes spatial thinking. Dyads assigned to conditions in which they were given instructions varying with respect to whether spatial thinking was emphasized (“spatial-play" or experimental vs. "free-play” or control conditions). The experimenter measured whether the quality of parent-child play differs in the two groups, regarding the amount of spatial language exhibited by the mother. The researcher found that mothers in the “spatial-play” condition produced higher proportion of spatial language than did mothers in the “free-play” condition, suggesting that children’s spatial thinking can be promoted during play if parents are aware of the importance of developing spatial skills and how to guide children’s spatial thinking. Such findings will have implications for how parents may be able to enhance children’s spatial understanding.