Pack away (some of) the Christmas toys!

Did your child get lots of toys for Christmas? Are you struggling to find places to store them all?

Dr Sarah Rose, Director of the Psychology Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University reports on some new research suggesting that having fewer toys may actually be better!

Researchers at the University of Toledo in Ohio gave 36 toddlers either 4 or 16 toys to play with for a 30-minute period. Their play was observed and analysed for indicators of play quality. It was concluded that when fewer toys were present children spent longer playing with each toy, showed better concentration, and were more creative as they expanded and developed their play ideas.

This study is a useful reminder to parents, and anyone working with children, that toddlers are easily distracted. Toddlers are developing their ability to focus their attention and steps that can be taken to support this are likely to have long term positive consequences. Attention is vital for academic success and young children with better attentional skills maintain this advantage as they get older.

Not only was having fewer toys found to beneficial to helping toddlers to sustain their attention it also encouraged them to explore and be more creative with the toys. Creativity is another skill that is developed in early childhood and as associated with many positive attributes such as educational achievement, well-being and success at work.

This evidence supports the idea of toy rotation. This involves small collections of toys being rotated into play while the majority are stored away. This provides opportunities for developing sustained attention and creativity while still providing children with novel and varied play experiences.

Further research in this area is needed, particularly relating to play in the home environment, where there are often additional distractions such as background Television and other screen media. The impact of screen time on children’s developing creativity is a topic that we are investigating within our Psychology Children’s Lab. If you are a parent of a 3 to 8 year old child please do consider taking part in our online survey – further details can be found here.

Dr Sarah Rose was also featured in The Sentinel newspaper providing commentary on this recent research finding (click here to read the full story).


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Dr Sarah Rose featured in a Q&A with the Parenting Science Gang on Children’s TV viewing and creativity

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology & Director of the Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University) was featured in a live Question and Answer web chat with the Parenting Science Gang, a parent-led citizen science project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Dr Rose discussed her research into the effects of viewing TV on children’s creativity, including the development of novel ways of measuring children’s creative thinking through play-based tasks and her work into children’s drawings.

Read Dr Rose’s interview via the Parenting Science Gang’s website (click here).

Dr Rose is also the Course Leader for Staffordshire University’s BSc (Hons) Psychology and Child Development degree, one of only a hand of such degrees in the country.


Interested in Psychology? Thinking about a Psychology degree?

Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out about our Psychology degrees, including our highly rated BSc Psychology & Child Development degree and our Undergraduate courses and Postgraduate awards.

Guidelines on children’s screen time need to be built on evidence

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Developmental Psychology & Director of the Staffordshire Children’s Lab) blogs about a recent debate in the media regarding the effects of screen time on children’s development and wellbeing:

A letter published in the Guardian on Christmas day claimed that ‘Screen-based lifestyle harms children’s health’. This was signed by a group of forty writers, psychologists and charity heads who argued that national guidelines on screen based technology are required.

May16 SR Screen free week pic1

The claims for the links between and increasing screen-based lifestyle and children’s wellbeing are not supported by the evidence. I am delighted to have been able to add my support to this response from a group of academics and expert practitioners published by the Guardian last week. In this we argue that screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype or scaremongering.

Of course the wellbeing of children is important and the impact of screen-based lifestyle requires investigation but currently there is insufficient research evidence on which to base National Guidelines. Rather than focusing on quantity alone, evidence is needed regarding context of use (where, when and how digital media are accessed), content (what is being watched or used), and connections (whether and how relationships are facilitated or impeded).


Staffs-Uni-Hi-Res_45-1024x683Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Thinking about taking a Psychology degree or a related course?

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out about our Psychology degrees, including our highly rated BSc Psychology & Child Development degree and our Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses.

New research investigates the role of education in developing children’s drawing abilities

Dr. Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Developmental Psychology and Director of the Staffordshire Children’s Lab) discusses research carried out with Dr Richard Jolley (Senior Lecturer in Psychology) which investigates the extent to which children’s drawing abilities differ in two contrasting educational settings.

Dr Richard Jolley and Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Richard Jolley and Dr Sarah Rose

Dr. Rose explains that although there has been over 100 years’ of research investigating how children’s drawing develop, very little attention has been given to the influence of education on their development. In order to address this gap in our understanding drawings produced by pupils (age 6 to 16 years) who attended Mainstream and Steiner schools were compared.

These two school types were chosen as they have contrasting approaches to teaching drawing. Whereas in the Mainstream schools observational and expressive drawing skills are taught concurrently, in the Steiner schools the emphasis is on imaginative and expressive drawings, with observational drawing skills not being taught until children are 12-years old.  In addition, the amount of time, and the artistry of the teachers have also been identified as defining features of Steiner schools.

Pupils were asked to complete six drawings; three expressing a particular mood (happy, sad and angry), an observational drawing of an artist’s mannequin, a representational drawing of a house that they had seen and a free drawing. Local artist were involved in scoring all the drawings for the level of drawing skill demonstrated.

Considering the differing emphasis of the art education experienced by the pupils at the two school types the results of the research were somewhat surprising.  Steiner pupils, including those in the younger age groups, were better at the observational and representational drawing tasks compared to those in Mainstream schools.  However, their expressive and free drawings were rated very similarly. This evidence suggests that maybe art teaching does not have as much impact on drawing ability as might be thought. However, it is also possible that actually the approaches to teaching drawing in these two schools may not be as different as the curricula suggest.

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Two free drawings by 16-year-old pupils: one attending a Mainstream school (right) and one attending a Steiner school (left)

Drs Rose and Jolley are hoping to carry out further research in this area to investigate the impact of differing experiences of art education within Mainstream schools.

Rose, S. E. & Jolley, R. P. (2016).  Drawing Development in Mainstream and Waldorf Steiner Schools RevisitedPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 10, 447-457.

The Children’s Lab is home to developmental psychology research at Staffordshire University and is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Staffordshire University offers a range of psychology degrees which are characterised by our research-informed teaching by active research staff.

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out more about our Psychology degrees here!

Dr Sarah Rose featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing findings from her Children’s TV and Creativity research

Jan 16 Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Developmental Psychology & Award Leader for the BSc Psychology & Child Development degree, has been featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing the latest findings from her research into the effects of Children’s TV viewing on creativity. Dr Rose also directs the Children’s Lab, home to developmental psychology research at Staffordshire University.

Sarah explained her recent findings, which suggest some time limited effects of TV on children’s creativity, on the Pete Morgan Breakfast Show on Monday 3rd October 2016:

The Children’s Lab is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research which is home to psychological research at Staffordshire University.

For more information about the Children’s Lab, their research and ongoing studies seeking participants please click here.


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Staffordshire University offers a range of psychology degrees which are characterised by our research-informed teaching by active research staff.

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out more about our Psychology degrees here!

Screen Free Week 2016 – Is too much screen time bad for children?

Did you know that next week (2nd to 8th May 2016) is ‘Screen Free Week’?

The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood presents Screen Free Week 2016 and encourages children, their families and other individuals to turn off their screens* (*except for work and school, college and university assignments) and instead engage in creative and social activities. So prepare to forget about Facebook, turn off twitter, forego your Netflix fix and reduce your screen time.

May16 SR Screen free week pic1

A quick Google search on the topic of ‘children and television’ highlights concerns that too much screen time is alleged to be damaging for children. The American Paediatrics Society, for example, recommends that screen time for children under 2 years be avoided and that for older children it should be limited. But what do we actually know about the impact of screen time on children’s development? Psychologists have been seeking an answer to this question for over 50 years! However, there are still many gaps in our understanding.

While research suggesting a relationship between more screen time in early childhood and negative consequences in later childhood may appear concerning we must treat these findings with caution. It is well known in psychology that causation cannot be assumed from a correlation as it is possible that both variables, the screen time and the later negative behaviour/experiences might be being influenced by something else. For example, eating ice cream and death by drowning are correlated but we do not conclude that eating ice cream is dangerous – instead we might assume that increases in both these events are due to nice weather. Therefore it can be argued that more screen time is not actually directly related to later negative experiences at all… Instead there might be something else which accounts for both, such as parents who are time poor, spend less time interacting with their child, families of lower SES, poor diet, etc.

May16 SR Screen free week pic2

As a Developmental Psychologist I do have concerns about the consequences of excessive screen time in early childhood. Particularly as excessive screen time is likely to result in children spending less time engaged in other activities important for their development, e.g. physical exercise, play, sleep, and family time. However, I do not think that parents should be made to feel guilty for allowing their children some entertainment-based screen time.

Dr. Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Child Development at Staffordshire University, is continuing to investigate the impact of different types of screen media on children. She is particularly interested in how screen time may affect children’s developing creativity. To find out more about her research visit Staffordshire University’s Children’s Lab


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Thinking about taking a Psychology degree or a related course?

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out about our Psychology degrees, including our BSc Psychology & Child Development degree which received 100% Student Satisfaction (2015 National Student Survey) and our other highly rated Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses.


The School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University is a leading School in the UK for Psychology degrees and is situated in the heart of England. We produce internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with a variety of healthcare providers, charities, international sports teams and private sector organisations.

New research into Children’s Divergent thinking at Staffordshire’s Children’s Lab

Jan 16 Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology & Award Leader for the BSc Psychology & Child Development) updates on new research developments in the Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University:

Divergent thinking is the ability to come up with many different ideas. For example, how many uses can you think of for a paper clip? Psychologists are interested in the number of ideas that people come up with and also the novelty of these ideas.

Although divergent thinking has been studied extensively in adults and older children very little is known about the development of this skill in young children. A current challenge is that there are very limited methods of assessing divergent thinking which do not rely on linguistic skill. Torrance (1981) developed the test of Thinking Creatively in Action and Movement, and although this test can be used with children from as young as three years old it relies on their ability to follow verbal instructions such as ‘Now you do something different’ which more recent evidence suggests that 3-year-olds will struggle to understand (Goswami, 1992).

The only existing test of divergent thinking which does not rely on verbal understanding is the Unusual Box Test (Bijvoet-van den Berg & Hoicka, 2014). To assess divergent thinking the box is placed in front of the child by the experimenter. The child is then presented with novel objects and the actions they make with the box and objects recorded.

Apr16 SR Unusual box

An example of an “unusual box”

Dr. Sarah Rose has been successful in securing funding from the Staffordshire University REF2020 research scheme to develop a new Unusual Box for measuring divergent thinking in pre-schoolers and toddlers. Sarah is particularly excited to be developing this new measure as it will enable her to carry out further research into the effect that other activities may have on children’s developing creative skills. The new triangular wooden box is being developed with Dr Elena Hoicka from Sheffield University.

New Study seeking 2- and 3-year old children to test the “unusual box”

Sarah is currently looking for 2- and 3-year-old children and their parents to help test the new box. If you are interested in finding out more about the project please visit the Children’s Lab Webpage.

References:

Bijvoet-van den Berg, S., & Hoicka, E. (2014). Individual differences and age-related changes in divergent thinking in toddlers and preschoolersDevelopmental Psychology, 50(6), 1629–39. doi:10.1037/a0036131

Goswami, U. (1992). Analogical reasoning in children. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Torrance, E.P. (1981). Thinking creatively in action and movement. Benesville, IL: ScholasticTesting Service


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The Science Centre, home to the Psychology Department

The School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University is a leading School in the UK for Psychology degrees and is situated in the heart of England.

We produce internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with a variety of healthcare providers, charities, international sports teams and private sector organisations.

For more information or details of the wide range of Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit our website and our courses page.