App for Being a Better Parent Works

After using the app, the parents reported improvements in their children’s behavior and self-reliance.After using the app, the parents reported improvements in their children’s behavior and self-reliance.

Interested in becoming a better parent? There’s an app for that. And, according to an Oxford University study of families who downloaded the games designed to encourage child development, it works.

The Oxford researchers said the success of the trial meant that local authorities and schools should consider using digital outreach to parents as a cheap and simple way of improving school readiness among infants.

The study followed 144 families from disadvantaged areas in Bournemouth who used the EasyPeasy software application that offered techniques, suggestions and nudges for parenting while bringing up children aged between two and six.

“Although there are many parenting programs, there is still limited evidence that they are effective at improving children’s learning or their capacity to make a strong start at school,” said Kathy Sylva, professor of educational psychology at the University of Oxford.

These promising results on EasyPeasy stem from a rigorous trial and so build optimism that we can make a difference in the lives of young children through supporting their parents.”

In one task offered through the app, Yummy Strawberries, parents could watch an explanation of a game, in which both parent and child would hold a strawberry each and set the phone’s timer for one minute before eating it, reported an article on

The app gave tips, such as: “Ask your child to distract themselves from eating the strawberry” to help the child fight temptation, recalling Stanford University’s famous “marshmallow experiment” where children who resisted eating a treat placed in front of them tended to have positive personality traits.

After 18 weeks using the app, the parents taking part reported improvements in their children’s behavior and self-reliance, saying that they were more persistent in completing difficult tasks and were more willing to make decisions independently.

The parents reported that they themselves felt better able to stick to rules and set boundaries. However, the app sent data on parents’ usage to children’s centers where they were recruited, allowing center staff to “encourage less engaged parents to participate”.

Although the study found that the result was “moderate” in its success, the researchers concluded that the “very low delivery costs” of about £35 per child made it cost effective and easy to expand rapidly.

The research was funded by the Sutton Trust and the Esmée Fairbairn foundation, with the EasyPeasy app originating from a 2014 competition run by the Guys & St Thomas’s charity and the Design Council.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chair of the Sutton Trust, said: “We know that the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest pupils begins before they’ve even started school. Tackling this disparity early on is critical to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and improving social mobility.”

Previous research commissioned by the Sutton Trust found a 19-month gap in development between the richest and poorest children by the age of five.

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