Independent, evidence-based research shows that EasyPeasy significantly improves children’s cognitive self-regulation.
EasyPeasy is a parenting app for parents and carers of 2-6 year old children that encourages positive play and interaction at home through game ideas. We measured the impact of our app on parents and children through a rigorous randomised controlled trial conducted independently by the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, in partnership with Sutton Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Bournemouth Borough Council.
During the intervention, local parents in Bournemouth received our weekly game ideas to play with their children, modelled by real families and accompanied tips and guidance.
Each game promotes positive parent-child interaction and focuses on building skills outlined in the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) including ‘self-regulation’ and associated capabilities like delaying gratification, concentration, attentional focus, and listening, all of which strongly underpin children’s learning in the classroom.
We measured the impact of EasyPeasy using standardised tests that assess aspects of parent behaviour and child development.
Of the aspects we measured, we found that two of them had actually changed as a consequence of experiencing the app, using it, and playing with the child:
Parent discipline and boundaries: parents feeling more comfortable setting limits for behaviour and following through on expectations. This measure is not a measure of parental aggression or harsh discipline, focusing instead on reasoning with the child and finding positive ways to avoid conflict.
Child cognitive self-regulation: persisting to complete difficult tasks (rather than giving in to distractions or giving up), making decisions independently, and working things out for oneself. This is sometimes called ‘grit’ or ‘character’.
"School readiness is not ready to be instructed and ready to be passive, school readiness is ready to be a really active learner who goes out seeking new skills, new ideas, new relationships and new peers, and having the confidence to tackle challenging things and enjoy the challenge…and move on in development. From this study, it looks like EasyPeasy really has increased the school readiness of these children...it's the 21 century skill."
- Professor Kathy Sylva
These graphs show the progress made by families using EasyPeasy compared to their peers.
These two significant outcomes suggest a possible relationship between parents’ increased consistency with rules and boundaries, and children’s corresponding improvements in cognitive self-regulation. There is a research base which suggests links between parenting style and children’s developmental outcomes. When we designed EasyPeasy, we were led by a ‘logic model’ hypothesising how features in the app might play into these processes.
We spoke to the families who took part in the trial to hear what they thought about using EasyPeasy, the impact it's had on their family, and how they fit the games into their daily lives.
“Hi I've tried this with my goddaughter she loved the challenge of understanding my instructions and jumping onto the right and sometimes wrong shapes!! I gave her lots of positive encouragement and praise as we played the game.”
- Parent commenting on 'Stepping Stones'
“Wow! I can't believe how much fun this was as it developed and how clever my little girl actually is. Such amazing imagination. Thank you for opening my eyes. She loved it”
- Parent commenting on 'Imaginary Safari'
“Oh my goodness!!!. I really like selfies game, we used and learn new vocabulary and so surprise how well my daughter can read emotions, much better than myself!!. I found this app very handy to keep the kids entertained and get to spend time together.”
- Parent commenting on 'Selfies'
We ran our pilot in partnership with Bournemouth Borough Council's early help team, working via their children’s centres which are run by three children’s services providers: Barnardo’s, Children’s Society and Bournemouth YMCA. We tested EasyPeasy as a 'digital first' and 'early intervention' strategy for the council.
Our evaluation in partnership with the University of Oxford and Bournemouth Borough Council was made possible by the support of the Sutton Trust and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation's Parental Engagement Fund.
“We know that the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest pupils begins before they’ve even started school. Tackling this disparity early on is critical to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and improving social mobility. But it can be difficult to get parents involved in their child’s learning. Today’s results show the potential for EasyPeasy to be an effective way of improving parental engagement.”
- Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation and of the Sutton Trust
The programme is also supporting five other brilliant and innovative organisations that are helping to improve parent's engagement in children's learning.