Imaginative learning activities such as dressing up, and letter and number games can help improve the development of young children from disadvantaged backgrounds, a new study has suggested.
The research by the Institute of Education claims that such activities can help poor pupils "succeed against the odds", the BBC reported.
According to the study, the gap between pupils from well-off families and those from disadvantaged backgrounds begins to emerge by the age of three and doesn't close for a lot of young people.
Starting in 1996, the project followed 3,000 young people aged between three and 14 and looked at which factors help contribute to educational achievement.
In many instances the gap witnessed at three-years-old persisted to GCSE level.
However, the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education study tried to establish ways to narrow this gap, and found stimulating early years education to be a major help.
Home learning through play, arts and craft activities, and letter and number games were all found to contribute.
'Make believe' games involving dressing up were found to be help children develop, while music, sport and dance were also found to be beneficial.
Quoted in the BBC report, the study said: "Learning opportunities in the home such as reading with children, playing with letters and shapes, sharing nursery rhymes, [and] going to the library all have positive effects later in the secondary phase."
What is more, this was found to have a more profound effect than parents' income or occupation and the advantage it offered stayed with children through the initial years of secondary school.
"If parents focus on their children's learning when they are very young it raises their attainment at Key Stage 2 on average by a whole national curriculum level," the research concludes.
The link between attendance and school achievement is also heavily linked.
Recent government figures show that last year nearly 400,000 pupils missed a month of school or more, with just 35 per cent of pupils who missed between ten and 20 per cent of school achieving five good GCSE results.
Posted by Theo Foulds