By Gary Weaver
A new child development study from Oregon State University shows how an intervention using music and games to help preschoolers learn self-regulation skills is helping prepare at-risk children for kindergarten.
Self-regulation skills are essentially those which help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task, and persist through difficulty. Basically, these are skills children need to be successful in school. They are critical to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond, said OSU’s Megan McClelland, a nationally recognized expert in child development and one of the study’s co-authors.
“Most children do just fine in the transition to kindergarten, but 20 to 25 percent of them experience difficulties—those difficulties have a lot to do with self-regulation,” McClelland said.
“Any intervention you can develop to make that transition easier can be beneficial.”
Overall, the intervention was most effective among children considered at the highest risk for struggling in school—those from low-income backgrounds who are learning English as a second language.
Besides having a positive effect on self-regulation, the intervention also influenced math achievement. “The math gain was huge,” McClelland said. “English language learners who were randomly assigned to the intervention showed a one-year gain in six months. This was in spite of the fact that we had no math content in these games.”
The positive gain in math achievement indicates that children were able to integrate the self-regulation skills they learned into their everyday lives. It also supports previous research finding strong links between self-regulation and math skills, said McClelland.