Playing Hard: The Role of Language and Play in Promoting Children’s Spatial Skills

Worksite Location
CUCE New York City
Faculty Sponsor
Marianella Casasola, Associate Professor, Human Development
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Luis Almeyda, Extension Support Specialist, Bronfenbrenner Center
Stipend Amount
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

We are testing the impact of spatial language exposure and guided play with constructive toys, such as blocks and puzzles, on the spatial skills of preschool children. We will work in collaboration with Head Start centers in New York City to conduct an enrichment play study. An experimenter will provide spatial language as they engage in spatial play with preschool-aged children, either individually or in small groups. Our goal is to identify the conditions under which children show gains in their spatial skills. In particular, we hope to assess whether children benefit equally from these experience in small groups of two to three children versus when engaging one-on-one with an experimenter. We thus are exploring approaches to translate our findings so that they can be adopted for use in a preschool classroom.

Roles and Responsibilities

We wish to pilot a study that explores whether the same benefits are evident when parents interact with their children, exploring the degree to which the enrichment training can be implemented as a possible intervention.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Must be a full-time CHE freshman, sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Must meet NYS Department of Motor Vehicle requirement, if applicable.

The student needs to be fully trained in the current enrichment training study. The student should have a strong background in developmental psychology, be familiar with key studies on the early development of spatial skills, have sufficiently strong social skills to interact with a variety of individuals (e.g., children, parents, daycare workers, directors of childcare centers), and also be comfortable with basic statistics.

Benefits and Skills

• First-hand experience in conducting research, particularly in participant training and testing
• Experience working with Head Start centers to recruit and test participants
• Learning to test children in a variety of spatial tasks and spatial language assessments
• Connecting previous research with the goals of the present project and gaining the skills to communicate this information to a broad audience.
• Finally, because the study required regular play interactions with young children, the study provides a unique experience to connect research with observations of children’s play