Does television affect young children’s creativity?

New research at Staffordshire University aims to find out! Dr Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Developmental Psychology, is welcoming 60 children and their parents to the Psychology ‘Children’s lab’ on the third floor of the Science Centre during June and July. These children and their parents are contributing to new research on the immediate impact of watching television on children’s creativity.

When they arrive at the lab children are given an ‘unusual box’ to play with. The box has ledges of wood attached to it, loops and holes, and inside is a stairway. In order to test their creativity, the children are given unusual objects to use within the box. The different movements that the children make with the objects in the box, such as moving them up and down the stairs or balancing them on the shelves, are recorded and scored for creativity. Following this, the children either watch an old ‘slow-paced’ episode of Postman Pat from the 1990s, a recent more ‘fast-paced’ episode or are given books and jigsaws to read and play with.

The unusual box (SR)

The “Unusual Box”

To determine the effect of watching the TV episode, all the children are then set a number of action and movement tasks to complete, including exploring how many different ways they can get from one side of a room to another and get a paper cup into a bucket. Similar to the activity with the ‘unusual box’, the different movements are recorded and scored for creativity. The assessment of creativity is of course complex. In this study tasks requiring divergent thinking will be used, these will require children to move and behave in different ways. This is a particularly appropriate way to measure creativity in 3-year-old children who may or may not feel like talking to us when they visit the lab!

The Psychology Children’s lab now has a web presence ( and it is hoped that this project will be the first of many to take place in the lab. Sian Foulkes, a current level 6 student, is working as a research assistant to help Sarah to collect the data from the children and their parents. Student research assistants will also be involved in scoring the various tasks for creativity once they have received training. Sarah says ‘that it is exciting to be welcoming local children and their parents to the children’s lab to take part in ground breaking research and being able to provide hands on research experience for students is very important too’.

For more details about the Children Lab click here. Interested in Child Development? The Psychology department at Staffordshire University also runs a successful BPS-accredited BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development degree.