Enhancing parent and child shape talk during puzzle play


Shape puzzles offer opportunities for families to talk about geometric concepts, which supports early spatial reasoning. However, puzzle features (i.e., similarity of shapes) may influence the nature of parent-child talk about shapes (e.g., labeling shapes vs. elaborating on shape properties). In this study, 128 dyads of parents and children (ages 30–47 months) completed both Typical and Highly Alignable (HA) shape puzzles. Compared to the HA puzzle, there was more shape labeling during the Typical puzzle; the HA puzzle elicited more elaborative shape talk (particularly comparing and contrasting shapes). Further, the HA puzzle elicited more elaborative shape talk when similar shapes were distributed on different rows rather than arranged side-by-side. Follow-up analyses found the HA puzzles were more difficult for children to complete. Findings suggest that including similar shapes and manipulating the arrangement of shapes may increase the difficulty of puzzles and elicit increased parent support and enhanced parent-child spatial language during puzzle play.

Cognitive Development
Michelle Hurst
Michelle Hurst
Assistant Professor

My research interests include mathematical development and variations in performance across contexts.