Children’s museums provide a stimulating environment for young kids to learn through play. A recent publication in the International Journal of Educational Research investigated the effects of children’s museums on kindergarten children’s cognitive development.
Researchers designed a randomized controlled trial with two treatment groups and two control groups to investigate this topic. The first treatment group (n1= 130) was given 18 tickets to visit a museum with parents over the course of two semesters. The second treatment group (n2 = 107) toured the same museum 18 times under the guidance of kindergarten teachers. Participants in both treatment groups first had a 30-minute interactive activity organized by the museum staff and then played freely within the museum. Children who were assigned to the control groups (n1 = 98 and n2 = 100) by lottery were not provided with any free tickets. Before the intervention, both demographic measurements and cognitive scores between the treatment and control groups were comparable.
Students’ cognitive abilities were assessed on an adaptation of the China-Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.
- Compared to the control groups, children who visited museums with their parents demonstrated a significant increase in total cognitive scores (ES =+ 0.11, p = 0.01)
- Children who went to museums with teachers showed similar enhancement (ES = +0.12, p = 0.03).
The authors provide evidence to show that children’s museums can positively supplement classroom instruction in early childhood. Museums appear to be an important informal setting for children to experience, explore, and enhance their cognitive skills.
Source: Tan, F., Gong, X., & Tsang, M. C. (2021). The educational effects of children’s museums on cognitive development: Empirical evidence based on two samples from Beijing. International Journal of Educational Research, 106, 101729. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2020.101729