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Magna-Tiles and Brio Trains Both Named 2013 TIMPANI Toy

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Faculty and student researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) have announced the results of the 2013 TIMPANI toy study. Two toys tied this year, both receiving the highest ratings of all toys studied: Magna-Tiles by Valtech, LLC, and My First Railway by Brio. Study findings were announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and at a press conference on Eastern's campus on December 4th.

Magna-Tiles web.jpgThe TIMPANI toy study is an annual empirical study that looks at how young children in natural settings play with a variety of toys. Each year, nominated toys are placed in preschool classrooms and videotaped using remote cameras. Researchers use a scientific instrument to determine which toys best promote children's development in three areas: thinking and learning, social interaction and cooperation, and self-expression and imaginative play.

The 2013 study marks the fifth year that the CECE has studied toys, and trends suggest that basic, open-ended toys seem to inspire the highest levels of play. According to principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, "The high-scoring toys tend to be fairly simple toys that are not too realistic, and they don't have a lot of gadgetry or computer chips. They are often the ones we played with when we were growing up. In addition, construction toys have done very well in our studies over the past five years. They tend to inspire a lot of problem-solving as children figure out how to construct different objects, but we also see a fair amount of pretend play and social interaction."

Brio Trains web.jpgIn addition to providing useful information to parents and teachers about toys, the TIMPANI toy study provides opportunities for a number of Eastern Connecticut State University students to participate in research. Undergraduate students Chamari Davis and Cassie Savalli were responsible for conducting videotaping for the study, coding footage, and helping to analyze the results. They also co-presented the results at the NAEYC conference with Dr. Trawick-Smith and CECE Program Coordinator Julia DeLapp on November 22nd.

For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study, and to watch a video of children playing with toys studied, visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani.html

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12/5/13 update: See TV news coverage of this story at http://www.wtnh.com/news/windham-cty/study-on-how-children-play-with-toys

Hear researchers discuss what makes a good toy on the radio: http://www.wili-am.com/images/audio/ecsu_tympani_toy_study_dec_5_2013.wma

Read story in the Norwich Bulletin: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20131204/NEWS/131209801/10283/NEWS

12/11/13 update: Read Dec. 10 editorial in the Norwich Bulletin: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20131210/OPINION/131219995/10309/OPINION

12/13/13 update: Read New Yorker article about the influence of STEM-oriented toys that includes interview with TIMPANI researcher Jeffrey Trawick-Smith: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2013/12/can-toys-help-create-future-engineers.html

Center Releases Two New Videos on Early Childhood Math

Girls with tape.jpgThe Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University is pleased to announce the release of two new videos related to supporting math learning in early childhood settings.  The videos were developed based on a study conducted by Center faculty and students with the support of the Spencer Foundation.  The study looked at the relationship between children's mathematics achievement and teacher-child interactions during play.  Preschool children were videotaped over the course of the year during free play periods, and their interactions with teachers were coded and analyzed.  These findings were compared with gains that children made in mathematics ability from fall to spring according to a standard measurement tool.  The findings indicate that how teachers interact with and communicate with children while they play has powerful impacts on children's mathematical learning.

 

The Center has produced two videos related to the study:

 

1.     The first video kicks off our new Research Clips video series. The video describes the methodology of the study and outlines the major findings and study implications.  You can view the video at: http://www.easternct.edu/cece/math_play_study_video.html.

 

2.     The second video is part of our e-clips series.  Designed with current and future teachers in mind, the video illustrates how teachers can use math talk to support children's math learning.  (One of the major study findings was around the importance of engaging children in "math talk" throughout the day.)  The video is available at: http://www.easternct.edu/cece/e-clips_math_talk.html.

 

Center Wins 4th Telly for Inspiring Lessons

Copy of telly_newlogosmall.jpgThe Center for Early Childhood Education has been awarded a 2013 Telly Award for Inspiring Lessons: What We Learned from the Community Partners for Early Literacy Project. The 30-minute video describes the lessons learned during a three-year effort to improve the language and early literacy skills of over 500 children in Windham, Connecticut. With support from a U.S. Department of Education Early Reading First grant, the Center for Early Childhood Education provided professional development and literacy coaching to 50 teachers and paraprofessionals and supported families to engage in literacy activities at home. Inspiring Lessons includes interviews with teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, literacy coaches, and faculty experts Dr. Ann Anderberg and Dr. Maureen Ruby about what works in supporting children's literacy development.

The Telly Awards honor television, video, and film productions and programs, as well as work created for the Internet. Each year, the Telly Awards receive thousands of entries from throughout the United States and abroad. Inspiring Lessons received a bronze award in the category of Government Relations. The Center also received a Telly Award this year for Investigating Balls in the category of Internet/Online Video: Education. 

The Center for Early Childhood Education congratulates the following faculty, staff, and students involved in the development of Inspiring Lessons: Dr. Denise Matthews, Producer/Director and Co-Author; Julia DeLapp, Executive Producer and Co-Author; Karl Gray, Editor; William Black, Production Coordinator; Ken Measimer, Finish Editor and Videographer; Sean Leser (Eastern student), Finish Editor; Greg Hartzell, Videographer; Kerin Jaros-Dressler (Eastern student), Videographer; Ross Page (Eastern student), Music Composer; and Nick Napoletano, Animator.

The Center also thanks the teaching staff at the Windham Early Childhood Center and the Child and Family Development Resource Center for appearing in the video, participating in the initiative, and working to support young children's growth and learning. 

To view the video, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/inspiring_lessons.html.

Duplos Named the TIMPANI Toy for 2012

TIMPANIcolor.jpgFaculty and student researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Early Childhood Education have announced the results of the 2012 TIMPANI toy study. The toy receiving the highest ratings of all toys studied this year was DUPLO bricks, a toy made by LEGO Group. Rainbow People by Environments, Inc. received an honorable mention. Study findings were announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and at a press conference on Eastern's campus on November 16th.

Copy of DSC_4079.jpgAccording to principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, "DUPLO bricks pose many problems for children to solve, so there's a lot of deep thought that goes into building. Construction toys have done very well in our studies due to the fact that they don't suggest any one use. They can be used in many different ways, so children tend to interact more and negotiate what they want to build."

The TIMPANI toy study is an annual empirical study that looks at how young children in natural settings play with a variety of toys. Each year, nominated toys are placed in preschool classrooms and videotaped using remote cameras. Researchers use a scientific instrument to determine which toys best promote children's development in three areas: thinking and learning, social interaction and cooperation, and self-expression and imaginative play.

Researchers noted that while most of the toys studied this year showed very positive results in the classroom, only DUPLOS scored highly 1) across all three days of testing, 2) with both boys and girls, 3) with children from all socio-economic backgrounds, and 4) with children of different ethnicities.

In addition to providing useful information to parents and teachers about toys, the TIMPANI toy study provides opportunities for a number of Eastern Connecticut State University students to participate in research. Undergraduate students Jamie Vallarelli, Marley Koschel, and Jenny Wolff were responsible for conducting videotaping for the study, coding footage, and helping to analyze the results. They also co-presented the results at the NAEYC conference with Dr. Trawick-Smith on November 9th.

For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study, and to watch a video of children playing with toys studied, visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani.html

 

Nominate a Toy for the TIMPANI Study!

toy dolls.JPGThe Center for Early Childhood Education is now accepting nominations for the 2012 TIMPANI Toy StudyThe annual scientific study works to identify toys that best engage preschool-aged children in intellectual, creative, and social interactions. The study:

  • Helps preschool teachers make good decisions about what toys to put in their classrooms
  • Gives parents information about the kinds of toys that help children learn the most
  • Helps researchers understand how children's play with toys contributes to their development

We need help from parents, teachers, early childhood faculty, and others who work with or care for young children to identify promising toys that should be studied. (We do not accept nominations from toy manufacturers.) Nominated toys are placed in preschool classrooms with hidden video cameras. Researchers then rate the toys based on how children play with them. Results are shared through press releases, conference presentations, and our website.

 

To nominate a toy, visit http://7.selectsurvey.net/easternct/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=n42K7n4.

 

Update on 2/2/12: Nominations for the 2012 study are now closed.  You may nominate a toy for the 2013 study at: https://7.selectsurvey.net/easternct/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=n220l8m.

TINKERTOYS Determined to be TIMPANI Toy of 2011

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Researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Early Childhood Education have announced the results of the 2011 TIMPANI Toy Study. The toy receiving the highest ratings of all toys studied this year was "TINKERTOY Construction Set" by Hasbro/PLAYSKOOL. Study findings were announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and at a press conference on Eastern's campus on November 14th.

According to principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, "This year's findings confirm what we've been finding over the years with the TIMPANI study: basic, open-ended toys tend to be more beneficial to children's play and learning than some of the more elaborate and commercial toys that are on the market."

The TIMPANI toy study is an annual empirical study that looks at how young children in natural settings play with a variety of toys. Each year, nominated toys are placed in preschool classrooms and videotaped using remote cameras. Researchers use a scientific instrument to determine which toys best promote children's development in three areas: thinking and learning, social interaction and cooperation, and self-expression and imaginative play.

 

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The high scoring TINKERTOYS Construction Set features easy-fitting, durable pieces that children can fit together to make all kinds of creations. This year's study looked at a plastic version of the toy. Researchers noted that children using the toy engaged in high levels of creative play--constructing bridges, lollipops, and other items--and used advanced language to describe their efforts. There was a high level of social interaction as children worked cooperatively to build robots and other creations.

 

In addition to providing useful information to parents and teachers about toys, the TIMPANI toy study provides opportunities for a number of Eastern Connecticut State University students to participate in research. Early childhood education student Kelly Zimmermann noted what she learned as a student researcher: "It was very interesting to see how some toys encourage children to use their imagination, taking something simple to create something very unusual."

 

For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study and to watch a video illustrating how children played with the toy, visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani.html.

The Center for Early Childhood Education is pleased to announce that three research briefs on the importance of physical and outdoor play are now available on the Head Start Body Start website. The Center received a contract from Head Start Body Start in 2010 to conduct research on the developmental benefits of outdoor and physical play for children from birth to age five. The Center reviewed over 100 studies in an annotated bibliography, and summarized the findings in a comprehensive literature review. Using these findings, the Center created five video clips and developed five research-into-practice briefs to help early childhood providers implement practices that research indicates promote physical and outdoor play. The following three briefs are now available from Head Start Body Start:

  • Learning to Move and Moving to Learn: Integrating Movement Into the Everyday Curriculum to Promote Learning
  • Moving with Feeling: Nurturing Preschool Children's Emotional Health Through Active Play
  • Lullabies, Leaping, and Learning: Supporting Thinking in Infants and Toddlers Through Active Music and Play Experiences

To read the briefs, watch the videos, or learn more about the project, visit http://www.easternct.edu/cece/physical_play_abstract.html 

Student Researchers Featured in Hartford Magazine

The work of six Eastern students assisting in Center research was featured in a Hartford Magazine article entitled "Through the eys of a child: ECSU students study how play affects learning." The July 2011 article describes the work students did to support research by Dr. Sudha Swaminathan and Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith on how teacher-child interactions during play influence children's mathematical abilities. The study was funded by the Spencer Foundation. The students involved in the research were Christina Cammisa, Claire Fryer, Tasia Supino, Eliza Welling, Jennifer Wolff, and Kelly Zimmermann.  Read the article Hartford Magazine article.pdf.

Center Accepting Nominations for 2011 TIMPANI Toy Study

TIMPANIlogo1 bright sm.jpgThe Center for Early Childhood Education is now accepting nominations for the 2011 TIMPANI Toy Study. The study examines and researches how preschool children play with different kinds of toys. The study:

  • Helps preschool teachers make good decisions about what toys to put in their classrooms
  • Gives parents information about the kinds of toys that help children learn the most
  • Helps researchers understand how children's play with toys contributes to their development

The Center is currently seeking nominations from teachers and parents for toys to include in the 2011 study. Nominated toys will be reviewed by a panel of specialists and then studied and rated using a scientific instrument. The toy that receives the highest score will be announced in the Fall of 2011. 

To nominate a toy or obtain more information on the TIMPANI toy study, visit: www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani.html.

 

Results of TIMPANI Toy Study Announced

TIMPANIcolor.jpgResearchers at Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Early Childhood Education have announced the results of the first annual TIMPANI Toy Study. The toy receiving the highest ratings of all toys studied this year was "Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs" by Melissa & Doug, LLC. Study findings were announced at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and at a press conference on Eastern's campus on November 17th.

According to principal investigator Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, "The results of this study might give pause to parents and teachers who believe that children today need high-tech, complex toys in order to learn. This simple, beautiful, wooden toy set engaged children in almost every type of play behavior that is useful for development: solving problems, pretending, communicating with peers, and staying engaged for long periods."

The TIMPANI toy study is an annual empirical study that looks at how young children in natural settings play with a variety of toys. Each year, nominated toys are placed in preschool classrooms and videotaped using remote cameras. Researchers use a scientific instrument to determine which toys best promote children's development in three areas: thinking and learning, social interaction and cooperation, and self-expression and imaginative play.

vehicles.jpgThe high-scoring Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs toy set includes a variety of painted wooden vehicles, including a fire truck and ambulance. It also includes 10 common traffic signs that children may be familiar with, such as a stop sign. Researchers noted that children playing with the toy engaged in high levels of language and social interaction. Children also exhibited unexpected creative play, even using the container that the vehicles came in to construct garages and bridges.

In addition to providing useful information to parents and teachers about toys, the TIMPANI toy study provides opportunities for a number of Eastern Connecticut State University students to participate in research. Sociology/early childhood education student Liza Welling noted what she learned as a student researcher: "It was very interesting to see that such a simple toy made such a big difference in the classroom. You don't, as a teacher, have to include all these high end toys that everyone is saying are amazing...letting students use their imagination and create their own world is actually more important."

For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study and to watch a video illustrating how children played with the toy, visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani.html.