It is widely believed that children learn by playing, but if you observe children’s play activities, you may notice that the process of ‘playing’ is inherently unsystematic. This contradiction has made the question of how children learn during play of particular interest to parents, teachers and researchers. To find out what play is all about, cognitive scientists have developed and are testing theories about how children might learn through play.
Previous research has shown that television advertising can influence children’s food choices and their understanding of healthy eating habits. In our research, we want to find out whether online games that feature candy, cakes, and other foods can have the same effect.
In our studies, we show children (ages 6-10) pictures of various food products and ask for their opinions about them. We record how likeable children find each type of food. Children also play a short video game that incorporates names or pictures of different foods. At the end of the game, we ask children some questions about the game, to find out whether they liked playing it and what they thought about the products that were featured in the game.
We want to find out which foods children like, and whether video games that feature food products can make some foods more appealing to children. Children’s opinions about the foods and the video game will help us design a larger study to examine whether games like this one can have an effect on children’s food choices.
This study will help us understand how children learn about healthy eating, so that we can encourage them to form lifelong, healthy eating habits. Results from our research will also shape future obesity reduction programs to help people make healthy food choices.
Learn about other research related to Learning Through Play.
This research is conducted by the Center on Media & Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston