In China, preparing children for primary school transition has been recognized as one of the motives to enroll preschoolers in organized extracurricular activities (EA). A longitudinal study recently published in Journal of School Psychology investigated the associations between EA participation and various school readiness outcomes for Chinese preschoolers.
A total of 345 children (age 3-4 at T1) enrolled in 12 public preschools from middle-class families in urban Shanghai provided data on EA participation. Parents completed questionnaires about their children’s EA participation at three time points (T1=November 2017; T2= November 2018; T3=May 2019). At T1, assessment was conducted to obtain children’s baseline development. At T3 children’s school readiness skill outcomes, including receptive vocabulary, Chinese reading, expressive language, and early math skills were measured. Parents reported their children’s social-emotional development. EA participation was assessed in two scales, breadth and intensity. EA breadth was defined as number of EA types that a child was involved in (e.g., art, English, sports, chess were counted as 4 types). Attendance intensity was measured by number of hours spent on EAs per week. A growth mixture model was employed to identify different trajectories of EA participation. After controlling for initial development and socio-demographic factors, the results showed:
- Two EA participation breadth classes were identified: low and high level. Similarly, EA participation intensity was found to have two levels.
- Different levels of EA breadth had no effect on any measures of school readiness skills.
- Neither children’s greater initial EA breadth nor greater growth rate was related to better early math skills. However, belonging to a high intensity class was associated with better early math skills.
- EA participation did not predict other aspects of children’s school readiness.
Evidence from the current study suggests that EA participation may have limited effect on promoting children’s school readiness. Parents and educators may consider allocating familial and societal resources to other important aspects that can facilitate school readiness.
Source: Ren, L., Tong, X., Xu, W., Wu, Z., Zhou, X., & Hu, B. Y. (2021). Distinct patterns of organized activity participation and their associations with school readiness among Chinese preschoolers. Journal of School Psychology, 86, 100–119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2021.03.007