How Parents Support Children’s Informal Learning Experiences with Robots


  • Emily Relkin Tufts University
  • Madhu Govind Tufts University
  • Jaclyn Tsiang Tufts University
  • Marina Bers



Early childhood, Robotics, Collaborative Learning, Parents, Scaffolding


Coding and robotic technologies are becoming more prominent in early childhood STEM education. Parents, who are key facilitators of children’s early educational experiences, are increasingly invited to engage with their children in collaborative robotics activities. Few studies have focused on the ways in which parents support young children’s informal learning experiences involving robots. This paper presents two different approaches to exploring how parents support young children’s engagement. Both studies involve KIBO, a screen-free robot programmed with tangible wooden blocks. The first approach brought together children ages 5-7 with their parents in small groups for 1-2-hour “KIBO Family Day” workshops. Findings from parent surveys (N = 51) indicated that these workshops significantly enhanced families’ interest in coding. Parents also reported engaging as coaches, whereas children engaged as playmates and planners. To further explore the role of parents as coaches, three parent-child dyads were invited to participate in a 20-minute videotaped KIBO play session. Findings indicated that parents predominantly used cognitive scaffolding strategies, such as asking questions, offering suggestions, and verbally acknowledging their child’s actions. Affective and technical scaffolding strategies were used less frequently. Study limitations and implications for practice and future research are discussed.


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How to Cite

Relkin, E., Govind, M., Tsiang, J., & Bers, M. (2020). How Parents Support Children’s Informal Learning Experiences with Robots. Journal of Research in STEM Education, 6(1), 39–51.