EasyPeasy: Learning through play
EasyPeasy sends game ideas to parents of pre-school children to encourage play-based learning at home. Parents receive a weekly text message directly from EasyPeasy which links to videos of example games that they can play with their child, plus tips and advice about learning through play. The games target skills within the Early Years Foundation Stage areas of learning. This project focused on children in nursery classes (aged 3–4), whose parents received messages over 20 weeks.
Play-based learning app for parents
Character & essential skills
There is good evidence that a positive home learning environment in the early years is associated with improved outcomes at school. However, relatively little is known about the best ways of improving it. The EEF funded this project because EasyPeasy offers an innovative way of reaching families, it has evidence of promise from two pilot RCTs, and the wider evidence on texting parents suggests that it can be a promising, low-cost approach.
This study did not find evidence that EasyPeasy had an impact on children’s language development at the end of nursery using a summary language score. Impacts on language subscales, and social, emotional and behavioural outcomes were small and mixed. The largest of these effects was on cognitive self-regulation, which is consistent with previous studies, though the effect here is smaller than has been reported previously and should be interpreted with caution.
Parents and nurseries viewed the potential of EasyPeasy positively, and a group of parents who were interviewed reported significant positive changes to the home learning environment. However, securing ongoing engagement from parents was considered to be a challenge in this trial. By the middle of the programme, half of settings estimated that 25% of parents or less were accessing EasyPeasy.
EEF will report on the longer-term impacts of the programme on children’s Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) when the data is available.
Children in schools receiving EasyPeasy did not make any additional months’ progress in language development compared to children in control schools, as measured by a composite, summary language score. This finding has a moderate to high security rating.
There were small increases in ‘word structure’ and ‘concepts and following directions’ language subscales (equivalent to one month’s additional progress) compared to children in control schools, but no additional months’ progress in ‘sentence structure’ or ‘expressive vocabulary’.
Mixed results were found for children’s social, emotional, and behavioural outcomes. Children who received EasyPeasy made small increases in sociability, cognitive self-regulation, and emotional self-regulation compared to the control group. However, effects on externalising, internalising, and prosocial behaviour and behavioural self-regulation favoured the control group.
Parents receiving EasyPeasy reported improvements in the home learning environment. This included large increases in ‘modelling’, ‘responsivity’, and ‘variety of activities and interactions’. These results are less secure than the main findings due to the small number of parents assessed, and should be treated as exploratory.
Engagement from parents for the continued use of EasyPeasy was considered to be a challenge for nurseries. The most effective ways of encouraging parent participation included integration of the games into the classroom, introducing parents to the games at ‘Stay and Play’ sessions, and parents sharing comments.
Full project description
EasyPeasy provides game ideas to the parents of preschool children to encourage play-based learning at home, with the aim of developing children’s language development and self-regulation. Parents receive a text message directly from EasyPeasy which links to videos of example games that they can play with their children, plus tips and advice about learning through play. The games target skills within the Early Years Foundation Stage areas of learning. This project aimed to support children aged three to four in school nurseries. The intervention lasted 20 weeks, with parents receiving weekly texts linked to 65 games over this period. Use of EasyPeasy was supported by a member of nursery staff (the ‘Pod Leader’), trained by EasyPeasy.
One hundred and two primary schools from nine Local Authorities across England participated in this efficacy trial from September 2017 to July 2018. The programme was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial, testing the impact of EasyPeasy on children’s language development compared to ‘business as usual’ in control schools using the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF) assessment. Social, emotional, and behavioural outcomes were also assessed; 1,205 children were included in the evaluation. Interviews, case studies, focus groups, and a survey were conducted to explore how the programme was implemented and to obtain feedback from participants.