Active play with parents makes toddlers happier than watching TV

Active play with parents makes toddlers happier than watching TV

A new study by the Oxford University and the Open University has found that a child’s happiness is directly linked to how frequently they are engaged in activities such as reading, storytelling, shopping, painting and doing arts and crafts.


In contrast, passive activities like looking at picture books or watching television, brought no discernible benefits. In fact watching television appeared to have a significant negative impact on child happiness.

The results also suggested that more active activities may boost the development of a child’s motor and social skills. For example, painting or engaging in arts and crafts, could promote the development of movement skills, while reading, telling stories and singing have a significant impact on both talking ability and social skills. More passive activities did not contribute to the development of these skills.

Dr Laurence Roope, Researcher at the Health Economics Research Centre, Oxford University, said:

“Of course parents can’t engage their young children in these activities every hour of the day, but it is encouraging that time spent reading books to them, painting or joining in with a nursery rhyme, could help their development. It will be interesting to see whether similar results emerge for slightly older children and using other datasets.”

The study applied economic models to data drawn from the German Household Survey in the years 2007 to 2010. The data included responses from over 800 German parents about the happiness and wellbeing of their two and three year olds, the activities they took part in, and their development of talking, movement, and social skills.

The study received funding from the Leverhulme Trust.

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