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About the Toolbox

The Early Years Toolbox (EYT) is a collection of freely accessible measures of young children’s emerging cognitive, self-regulatory, language and social development. Each measure is a brief, engaging, game-like assessment that has been developed for the iPad. The EYT was developed as an advance over existing measures (see Background below) to capture abilities that research has shown to be most predictive of later academic, social, emotional, cognitive and life outcomes.

Background

Despite the presence and wide use of a range of existing direct measures of children’s cognitive development, issues of appropriateness, accessibility and cost plague many of these options. Issues such as insufficiently engaging stimuli and non-intuitive response methods can hinder the accurate assessment of young children’s true abilities. Further, extensive technological requirements (e.g., multiple pieces of hardware) and the need for a continuous broadband Internet connection during data collection further limits who and where data can be collected.  

To address these limitations, we developed the Early Years Toolbox as a set of measures of young children’s executive function, language development, self-regulation and social development. Importantly, we sought to provide a number of important advances over existing measures, including

  • Developmentally appropriate for young children in the instructions, requirements, imagery and response method;
  • Developmentally sensitive to rapid changes in these abilities in the early years;
  • Brief to administer (≤5 minutes per task);
  • Engaging, valid, and reliable for use with young children. Accurate capture of young children’s abilities requires that the child be engaged in the task. To achieve this, we created game-like assessments illustrated by a children’s book writer;
  • Technologically dynamic (i.e., combining visual and audio cues to communicate instructions, animating stimuli, the ability to manipulate key variables) without advantaging children with technology experience; and
  • Expected internationally applicability (research currently in progress).

Aim

The diversity of early development measures has yielded very different answers about development. Some of this may be due to different requirements across these measures, while in some cases this may also be due to issues with the measures themselves. No matter the specific cause, this has led to substantial debate about the quality, quantity and development of these abilities. To remedy this, we sought to develop a freely and easily accessible toolbox of measures that is easy to administer and overcomes these limitations, in order for researchers, educators and parents to collect important data using common measures (a ‘democratization’ of assessment).

To facilitate this use and the resultant discussions that may arise, we have also developed preliminary norms from more than 1,700 children across four states in Australia (with good representation of gender, socioeconomic status, maternal education, and Indigeneity).

Download the Toolbox

To download the Early Years Toolbox, search 'EYT' on your iPad's iTunes App Store (iPad 2 or later is required for this). This will provide a list of all six apps in the current edition of the toolbox. Or simply click the apps below you require.

Mr Ant

Visual-Spatial Working memory
The ‘Mr Ant’ Task is an iPad-based assessment of ‘visual-spatial working memory’ (i.e., the amount of visual information that concurrently can be coordinated in mind). In this game, children are presented with an image of a cartoon character – Mr. Ant – who has a number of coloured stickers placed in different parts of his body. After a predetermined amount of time, these dots disappear and the child is then asked to recall the locations of the dots by tapping the spatial locations on Mr. Ant that they believe previously held stickers. This game takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete.

Not This

Phonological working memory
The ‘Not This’ Task is an iPad-based phonological working memory measure (i.e., the amount of auditory information that concurrently can be coordinated in in mind). In this game, children are presented with an array of characters (i.e. shapes that have cartoon expressions on their faces) that vary in shape, size and colour (e.g., a large blue circle). Before the characters are shown, participants hear an auditory instruction to point to a card that does not fulfill a certain descriptive quality (e.g. “Find a shape that is not red” or “Find a shape that is not a triangle and is not large”). For each level, the number of descriptive qualities that must be held in mind increases; however, the game ceases after 3 incorrect responses within the same level, to ensure the game does not continue beyond the child’s ability level. This game takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete.

Go/No-Go

Visual-Spatial Working memory
The Go/No-Go Task is an iPad-based assessment of ‘inhibition’ (the ability to control behavioural urges). In this game, children are presented with fish and sharks and are instructed to tap the iPad screen whenever they see a Fish (‘catch the fish’) and refrain from responding when a Shark appears (‘avoid the sharks’). This game takes approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Card Sorting

Shifting
The Card Sorting Task is an iPad-based assessment of 'shifting' (an executive function that involves the ability to control and redirect attention). In this game, children are presented with cards that vary along two dimensions (i.e., shape and colour) and are asked to sort each card (i.e., red rabbits and blue boats) first by one dimension (e.g., colour) and then, after a number of trials, by another dimension (e.g., shape). Their ability to flexibly shift from one sorting rule to another corresponds to their cognitive flexibility (or 'shifting'). This game takes approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Child Self-Regulation & Behaviour Questionnaire (CSBQ)

Self-Regulation and Social Development
The Child Self-Regulation & Behaviour Questionnaire (CSBQ) is a parent- or educator-report questionnaire consisting of 33 items pertaining to children’s everyday behaviours related to children’s self-regulation and social development (e.g., ‘persists with difficult tasks’ and ‘waits their turn in activities’). For each item the respondent selects one of five options to indicate whether the statement is ‘Not true’ to ‘Very true’ about the child. This takes approximately 5 minutes to complete per child. The CSBQ produces measures of self-regulation (i.e., behavioural, cognitive and emotional), sociability, externalising, internalising and prosocial behaviour.

Expressive Vocabulary

Executive Functioning and Vocabulary
Preschool Expressive Vocabulary Task (an iPad-based assessment of children’s ability to identify and name objects): Children are presented with 45 individual cartoon pictures of objects (e.g., flower, hammer) and are asked to verbally name each item. If the child uses another name for the image (e.g., instead of 'teeth' they say ‘mouth’), they are prompted with ‘what else might this be called’, to determine if the child knows and can vocalise the word. This takes approximately 5 minutes to complete.