A new report from Growing up in Scotland (GUS) shows toddlers who are regularly read to and involved in lots of activities from an early age develop quicker.
GUS is tracking 5,000 babies (born between June 2004 and May 2005) and 3,000 toddlers (born between June 2002 and May 2003) through childhood and into their teens. A nationally representative sample of families was carefully selected to ensure the survey represents Scotland's urban/rural and economic backgrounds.
The report on early cognitive development shows children who were often read to at 10-months old and who did lots of activities like painting and singing at almost two-years-old scored better on language development and problem solving skills by the time they were nearly three.
Children's Minister Adam Ingram said that simple bedtime stories or games in the park make a huge difference to young children's development and parents don't have to spend lots of money on expensive toys and hobbies to give their children the best start in life.
"As parents, we all want the best for our children and there's no greater responsibility than bringing them up. Yet children do not come with an instruction manual and I know how daunting it can be," said Ingram.
"There's often a notion that parents need to spend lots of money on expensive toys and activities to stimulate their children but this report shows that's just not the case. It's the simple things like reading bedtime stories, kicking a ball about in the park or having a sing-along that really make a difference."
The GUS report found that children from less advantaged homes were least likely to have been to events or on trips and were more likely to be inactive.
"Experiences during the early years of a child's life can have a
striking impact on future chances and it can be startling how quickly
disadvantaged children fall behind," said Ingram.
The GUS survey was commissioned in 2003 and the research is being undertaken by the Scottish Centre for Social Research in collaboration with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh.