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Asian and Euro-American parents’ ethnotheories of play and learning: Effects on preschool children’s home routines and school behaviour

Asian and Euro-American parents of preschool-aged children were interviewed concerning their beliefs about the nature and purpose of play; they also completed two questionnaires and a diary of their children’s daily activities. The children’s teachers were interviewed and provided information about the behaviour of the children in preschool. The Euro-American parents were found to believe that play is an important vehicle for early development, while the Asian parents saw little developmental value in it. On the other hand, the Asian parents believed more strongly than the Euro-Americans in the importance of an early start in academic training for their children. These contrasting beliefs were instantiated in parental practices at home regarding the use of time and the provision of toys. At preschool, the Asian children were similar to the Euro-Americans on a standardised behavioural measure but they were described by their teachers as initially more academically advanced than the Euro-American children, and as showing different patterns of play and social interaction. The implications of these results for home–school relations and the design of early education programmes are discussed.