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A new study published in Child Development examines this interplay to show how simple cues from parents for their children to either “explain” or “explore” influences their children’s learning behavior and abilities, particularly as it relates to scientific reasoning. In the study, researchers examined how children’s understanding of causal mechanisms, as demonstrated in the Thinkery’s exhibit on gears, was influenced by minimal interventions from their parents. During a three-minute interaction in the exhibit, parents of 65 children, ages 4 to 6, were directed to give their children one of three directions — “explain,” “explore” or play as they normally would (baseline condition). 

“Our study examined parent-child collaboration in a real-world learning environment, a local children’s museum called the Thinkery, to provide parents and educators with suggestions on how to engage children in playful and open-ended ways of learning.”

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