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.
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.
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.