Applied Developmental Psychology 24 (2003) 75 – 89

Parental guidance in a cooking activity with preschoolers
Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler*, Erin Way, Jennifer Umpleby
Department of Psychology, Elon University, 2109 CB, Elon, NC 27244, USA

Abstract The present study was designed to investigate the nature and amount of support provided by parents to young children during a culturally relevant, complex activity. Thirty-six mothers and their 3- to 6year-olds baked cookies together at home. The amount of direct intervention and also the amount of overall guidance provided by mothers were assessed. In addition, parents’ and children’s engagement in the cooking activity was observed. We found that mothers employed higher levels of intervention with younger children, and especially for steps with higher difficulty, such as reading the instructions. Children whose parents provided more guidance overall were more engaged in the activity, though parental engagement and parental guidance were not related. Parents who provided more guidance overall employed lower levels of intervention, giving more hints or helping the children perform the step rather than doing it for them. Thus, their didactic focus encouraged the child’s increased participation in the joint activity. D 2003 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Scaffolding; Parenting; Preschoolers; Guided participation; Social interaction

1. Introduction A mother is busy making preparations for cooking, with various utensils and supplies around her. Her young children may offer, be asked, or even be expected to help with the preparations. This scene is fairly common around the world, though the specific tools and features of the environment vary. Based on Vygotsky’s assumptions that children’s cognitive and social development is influenced directly by interactions with others in ongoing,

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-336-278-6453; fax: +1-336-278-5627. E-mail address: (M. Vandermaas-Peeler). 0193-3973/03/$ – see front matter D 2003 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/S0193-3973(03)00025-X


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culturally relevant activities, Rogoff (1990) elaborated the concept of guided participation to describe the joint focus and shared responsibility of adults and children in these interactions. Children participate in various cultural activities as novices, with more experienced caregivers to guide them, and gradually gain skills and experiences that lead to more independence (Rogoff, 1990; Rogoff, Mistry, Goncu, & Mosier, 1993). Although the activities may be too difficult for young children to perform alone initially, as in the cooking activity described earlier, by working with a more skilled person, children learn about adult activities and gradually take on more adult responsibilities. Guided participation is thus a collaborative process, which can be formal and structured, or tacit and part of the child’s observational learning in ongoing routines (Rogoff, 1990). Adults employ a number of techniques to guide their child’s performance in various contexts, with the eventual goal of self-regulation or independent activity (Neuman, 1997; Stone & Wertsch, 1984). A metaphor of a ‘‘scaffold’’ is frequently employed to describe the types of intervention that experts provide to novices in order to help them solve a problem beyond the novice’s current capability (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976). In this model, support is provided as needed for successful accomplishment of the task, usually with more help in the beginning and eventual withdrawal of the scaffold as the child’s skills progress (Rogoff, Malkin, & Gilbride, 1984). According to Wood (1999), successful scaffolding involves three primary components. The first step is to ensure that the child recognizes the goals of the activity. This is related to ‘‘intersubjectivity,’’ a construct described by Wood and others (e.g., Rogoff, 1990; Rogoff & Gardner, 1984) as a shared focus and sense of purpose on the part of the expert or teacher and learner or novice. According to Rogoff (1990), intersubjectivity provides the foundation for guided participation. Secondly, the teacher employs just enough support to enhance the child’s learning and to help advance his or her performance, without causing excess frustration. Thus, from a Vygotskian framework, the expert is operating within the child’s zone of proximal development (Berk & Winsler, 1995; Vygotsky, 1978; Wood, 1999). An important aspect of successful instruction is the teacher’s sensitive and contingent responding to the child’s performance. Thirdly, the teacher must encourage the child’s future competencies by gradually lessening the level of intervention and allowing the child to take ownership of the situation (Greenfield, 1984). Positive relationships between parental scaffolding and children’s learning have been demonstrated frequently in the literature, supporting the notion that scaffolding does enhance children’s performance both at the moment of collaboration and in future efforts. Results of studies with topics as varied as young children’s numerical understandings (Saxe, Guberman, & Gearhart, 1987), parental tutoring of mathematics homework (Pratt, Green, MacVicar, & Bountrogianni, 1992), maternal tutoring of 3-year-olds completing puzzles (McNaughton & Leyland, 1990), and infant object play with their Bantu mothers (Richter, Grieve, & Austin, 1988), have all demonstrated that sensitive scaffolding by parents was associated with positive child outcomes. In studies of parental scaffolding, parent participants often help their child perform a task that is at or near their appropriate developmental level, with researchers coding the nature and amount of assistance provided by the parent in order for the child to succeed (often alone)

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subsequently on the task. Although studies of parental scaffolding range from infant play with toys to middle school homework, many of the existing research paradigms employ laboratory-based and/or highly structured tasks. The advantages of studying a structured, hierarchical task such as tower building are that scaffolding is easily quantified, participation at each step (adding or removing a block) is identical, and sensitive and contingent responding can be measured across the steps. However, these tasks may not capture the essence of guided participation during complex, adult-oriented activities that occur at home. Rogoff (1990), Rogoff, Baker-Senett, Lacasa, and Goldsmith (1995), Rogoff and Mistry (1990), and Saxe et al. (1987) have emphasized the importance of studying contextually based events or activities, with a clear sense of the meaning and goal of the activity to the participants. Many developmental psychologists have highlighted the need for cultural relevance and high levels of engagement in the task when examining children’s performance (e.g., DeLoache & Brown, 1979; Rogoff, 1990). In the present study, we were interested in parent–child interactions during an activity that might typically be performed at home, in which the adult is the expert and the child is the novice. We wanted to observe an activity with a relatively clear goal, meaningful to both participants, and of cultural relevance. We chose to examine parental guidance with preschoolers while baking cookies. Cooking is a home-based, relevant activity in which adults are clearly the experts, but children are also invited or even expected to participate, at least occasionally. There is one clear, important outcome of the task—to produce edible (even delicious) cookies. Although the activity may be considered adult-oriented, the outcome is clearly important to children as well. In addition, there is some flexibility in the necessary steps to accomplish the outcome, providing a rich context for observation of naturalistic parent–child interaction. The cookies must be edible, for example, but whether the butter or eggs are added first, and exactly how they are added, may vary across families or occasions. Thus, our study provides a contrast to other research employing standard laboratory tasks, in which there is only one correct way to perform each sequential step. Two types of parental support were assessed in the present study. As in prior research, we were interested in the amount of direct intervention parents would provide in order to facilitate successful completion of the task. For example, parents may take the spoon and help children stir the cookie mix. However, we modified the hierarchical measure of parental scaffolding used in prior research (e.g., Wood & Middleton, 1975) to fit our task. We were also interested in observing different strategies parents might use to help guide their children’s performance, in much the same way as an expert guides a novice during a tutoring session (Verba, 1998). For example, parents may offer feedback on the child’s performance, or facilitate the child’s next action. Thus, the two measures of parental support employed in this study are parental scaffolding, or level of direct intervention in the task, and parental guidance, referring to a variety of behaviors employed by parents to support the child’s performance. Based on prior research, we identified a number of techniques parents may utilize in order to support children’s learning and interest in the task. These included behaviors related to assistance with the child’s comprehension (e.g., asking general questions about the activity), provision of feedback (e.g., answering questions), facilitation of the task, and communication


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(e.g., laughing, providing encouragement), based on Verba’s (1998) scheme. It was expected that these guidance behaviors would be positively related to scaffolding or direct intervention in the task. More specific hypotheses were not developed given the exploratory nature of the research in the present context. In light of the importance of the outcome of our task (edible cookies), we expected to find high levels of parental intervention during the cooking activity, with adults providing children few opportunities to ‘‘fail.’’ However, we were also interested in comparing the assistance provided in the various steps leading to the final product (e.g., mixing, adding egg, etc.). We expected that the amount of scaffolding provided by parents would differ according to the difficulty of the step and also with children’s age. More scaffolding was anticipated for more difficult steps and also with younger children. Finally, we were interested in examining parent and child engagement in relation to children’s age and the amount of support provided by parents. In accordance with Rogoff’s (1995) view that guided participation requires engagement by both novices and experts in the ongoing activity, we observed the parents’ and children’s active interest and participation in the cooking activity. Parental engagement has been shown to be related to children’s behavior in past research (e.g., Kahen, Katz, & Gottman, 1994; Vandermaas-Peeler, Way, & Umpleby, 2002). Pratt and Savoy-Levine (1998) reported that children’s affect was related to parental support provided during math problems. Children whose parents provided moderate levels of challenge reported more positive affect than those children whose parents provided too little support (associated with higher rates of failure) or too much support (little participation). We expected high levels of engagement in the cooking task, overall, for both parents and children. We also predicted positive effects of parental support on levels of engagement in both parents and children.

2. Method 2.1. Participants Mother–child dyads were recruited for the study from local preschools and personal contacts. Thirty-six mothers and their 3- to 6-year-old children (18 daughters and 18 sons) participated. The mean age of the children was 52.03 (SD = 9.46) months and the median age was 54 months. The 18 children below the age of 54 months, or 4 1/2 years, were considered the younger group and the 18 children who were 55 months or older comprised the older group. Demographic information indicated that the majority of parents graduated from college, had professional occupations, and all parents were Caucasian. 2.2. Materials Researchers brought a video camera and ingredients for baking chocolate chip cookies (egg, butter, commercially packaged cookie mix) to the participants’ homes. Parents provided the specific tools for cooking (e.g., spoon, bowl, baking sheet, oven). In addition, parents

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were administered a brief demographic survey, as well as a questionnaire assessing how frequently mothers cooked with their children, and how much they each enjoyed the activity. 2.3. Procedure All families were observed in their own homes within the broader context of a one-hour interview in which mothers baked cookies and then performed other tasks (Legos and puzzle building) with the target child. Only the cooking task is considered in this study. The mothers were directed to ‘‘bake cookies with your child as directed on the package mix.’’ They generally followed the steps on the mix, including preheating the oven, adding an egg and butter to the mix, stirring the ingredients, scooping and placing the cookie dough on the sheet, and baking the cookies. There were some individual differences in how these steps were performed. For example, some mothers melted the butter in the microwave before adding it to the mix, while others added the solid butter to the mix and stirred for a longer period of time. Mothers used whatever tools they felt they needed to accomplish the task, with most choosing some stirring device (spatula, spoon, or fork), one or more bowls in which to stir the ingredients (some had the children crack the egg into a separate, small bowl first), and cookie baking sheets. The amount of time required for completion of the cooking activity varied by dyad, but most dyads were finished within 30 min. A research assistant filmed the entire event. After completion of the cooking task, mothers were asked to complete a brief demographic survey. They also answered questions about how often they cooked with their child and how much they each enjoyed it. 2.4. Coding Videotapes were transcribed for dialogue and for nonverbal information of importance to the dyadic interaction (e.g., child is leaning over the bowl watching while mother stirs). All coding was conducted by simultaneous examination of the transcript and the videotapes. The cooking event was used as the unit of analysis, divided into nine discrete steps, or subgoals, performed by a majority of the dyads in order to reach the successful outcome of baked cookies. The steps included reading the instructions, assembling the necessary materials, adding margarine or butter, adding the egg, adding the cookie mix, mixing all the ingredients in the bowl, putting the first cookie on the sheet, putting the rest of the cookies on the cookie sheet, and putting the cookie sheet into the oven. We made the distinction between the first cookie and the rest because most parents instructed their children to ‘‘watch me’’ place the first cookie on the sheet (modeling). This event-based method of coding enabled us to examine dyadic behavior within various parts of the activity, as well as to generalize across the whole activity. 2.5. Parental support We coded parental support of children’s participation in two ways. First, parental scaffolding was coded for each step using a modification of the scheme developed by Wood


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and Middleton (1975). Scaffolding codes ranged from 0 (child did the task alone) to 6 (parent did the task alone). The codes describe qualitative differences in the types of intervention provided by parents (e.g., providing a hint vs. helping hold the spoon), and also assume a hierarchical structure within the levels (e.g., a code of ‘‘4’’ assumes a higher level of scaffolding than a score of ‘‘2’’). The modified coding scheme for parental scaffolding is depicted in Table 1. Parental scaffolding was coded for each of the nine cooking steps separately. The average level of scaffolding was also computed by summing the scaffolding scores for all the steps and dividing by the total number of steps. We also were interested in describing the specific types of behaviors parents use to guide their young children’s participation in a complex, adult-oriented task. Based on Verba (1998), we coded parental guidance in four categories. The first category was comprehension, and included modeling correct behaviors, giving instructions, and asking general questions about the activity. The second category was feedback, which was defined as answering questions and accepting the child’s suggestions. The third category, facilitation, included any attempts by the parent to simplify the task for the child (verbally or nonverbally). The fourth category was social links, or an emphasis on communication, and involved providing encouragement and laughing or joking with the child. We noted the presence or absence of each of these specific behaviors during each of the nine cooking steps, and then summed the ‘‘total guidance’’ across the steps. We did not count the number of times parents employed each behavior within a particular step. For example, if a mother provided encouragement to her child during the step ‘‘preheats the oven,’’ and also during ‘‘places first cookie,’’ she would receive a score of 2 for ‘‘provides encouragement.’’ Proportions of behaviors were used within each category, given that the number of behaviors observed differed by category. 2.6. Engagement In order to assess mothers’ and children’s interest and involvement in the cooking activity, we developed a coding scheme for level of engagement. Based on Rogoff (1995),
Table 1 Coding scheme for scaffolding behaviors based on Wood and Middleton (1975) Level Definition and examples Level 0 Child performs step without assistance. Level 1 Verbal instruction. Parent tries to move the child toward the goal with a vague verbal comment. ‘‘What do you want to use next?’’ Level 2 Indicates material. Parent makes a direct intervention with the material, verbal and/or nonverbal. Hands the child the spoon and says, ‘‘Stir the mix.’’ Level 3 Parent provides material and prepares for assembly. Parent indicates both material and placement. Parent cracks egg and hands it to the child to put into the bowl. Level 4 Parent and child perform task together. Parent and child crack egg together. Level 5 Parent demonstrates with apparent intention of involving child next time. ‘‘Watch this. I’ll put the first cookie on and you do the next one.’’ Level 6 Parent does the task alone. Child watches and is on-task but not participating nor is parent modeling.

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engagement was defined as active participation and interest in the ongoing activity, observed either directly through overt action (e.g., by stirring) or indirectly (e.g., by one participant actively observing the partner’s actions). Level of engagement in the cooking activity was measured on a scale of 1 (low engagement) to 3 (high engagement). A ‘‘1’’ indicated that the child or mother was not participating in or watching the step, for example, in cases where the mother preheats the oven as the child looks at the mix. A ‘‘2’’ indicated that the person was watching at least occasionally, or was somewhat involved, and a ‘‘3’’ indicated full involvement (both stirring, or one stirring and the other directing how to stir) or being highly interested (mother is stirring but child is asking questions and asking to help). Engagement was coded separately for each member of the dyad, for each step. Average level of engagement was also calculated across all steps. 2.7. Interrater reliability Interrater reliability was established by independent coding of two raters on 20% of the interviews. Percent agreement on all the coding ranged from 82% to 93%. Cohen’s kappa was calculated for each of the coding schemes described above, and the values ranged from .74 to .81. 2.8. Frequency and enjoyment of cooking Parents rated their enjoyment of cooking with their child, as well as their child’s enjoyment of the activity (both typically and ‘‘today’’), on a scale from 1 (do not enjoy) to 4 (enjoy very much). In all but four cases, mothers answered ‘‘4’’ for both their own and their child’s enjoyment, and those three exceptions were responses of ‘‘3.’’ Given the lack of variability in the sample, no further analysis was possible for these questions. Mothers were also asked to rate the frequency with which they typically cooked with their child. The scale for frequency of cooking together ranged from 1 (never) to 4 (weekly), and there was a wider range of responses for this question.

3. Results 3.1. Parental scaffolding Means (and SDs) of parental scaffolding are presented in Table 2, by type of cooking step and age of child. The mean level of scaffolding across all the steps, for all children, was 3.92 (SD = 0.57). A score of ‘‘4’’ signified that the parent and child performed the activity together. Scaffolding of two of the steps emerged as significantly higher than the rest (means of approximately 5 on the six-point scale), ‘‘reading instructions’’ and ‘‘putting the cookies in the oven.’’ The steps that were rated the lowest for parental scaffolding were ‘‘putting the cookies on the sheet,’’ and ‘‘mixing all ingredients,’’ with scores averaging near 3. Taken together, these results indicate that across all steps, high levels of parent intervention were


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Table 2 Mean (SD) level of parental scaffolding, as a function of cooking step and child’s age Step in the cooking activity Read instructions * Assemble materials Add butter Add egg * Add cookie mix Mix all ingredients Put first cookie on sheet Put next cookies on sheet Put cookies in the oven Average across all steps Age 3 to 4 1/2 years 5.60 4.63 4.05 3.95 3.25 3.10 4.00 2.71 5.47 4.06 (0.82) (1.54) (1.61) (1.50) (1.11) (1.33) (1.58) (1.45) (0.91) (0.49) 4 1/2 to 6 years 4.93 4.31 3.47 2.93 3.33 2.67 3.93 3.00 5.07 3.72 (1.28) (2.02) (1.77) (1.83) (0.82) (0.90) (2.25) (1.60) (1.03) (0.64) Overall mean N = 36 5.31 4.48 3.80 3.53 3.29 2.91 3.97 2.83 5.29 3.92 (1.08) (1.74) (1.68) (1.70) (0.99) (1.17) (1.86) (1.50) (0.97) (0.57)

* Approached statistically significant difference, p < .08.

observed. Parents did adjust the level of scaffolding provided according to the step, particularly for the most difficult actions involving reading and hot ovens. The effect of the child’s age (above or below the median of 54 months) on the average level of parental scaffolding across all steps was examined in a univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA). Results yielded a significant effect for age, F(1, 34) = 4.14, p < .05, such that parents of younger children employed higher levels of scaffolding (M = 4.06, SD = 0.49) than parents of older children (M = 3.72, SD = 0.64). 3.2. Guided participation Means (and SDs) for guidance behaviors are presented in Table 3 for each of the four categories associated of mothers’ guidance. Chi-square analyses yielded a significant difference for the frequency of each category, c2(5, N = 36) = 14.61, p < .01. Comprehension was the most frequently occurring behavior and feedback occurred least often (see Table 3). However, there were no significant differences in use of the different types of guidance with the children’s age. We observed large individual differences in how frequently mothers offered guidance to their children. In order to examine differences in dyads due to the amount of guidance
Table 3 Mean (SD) number of parental guidance behaviors averaged across the nine cooking steps Type of parental guidance Comprehension Facilitation Social links Feedback Total guidance Number of guidance behaviors 2.95 2.19 1.78 1.07 7.99 (0.99) (1.28) (0.88) (0.79) (2.45)

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provided, a median split was performed on the total number of guidance behaviors across the four behavioral categories. The median number of guidance behaviors was 8.2, with 18 mothers included in the ‘‘high’’ guidance group and 18 in the ‘‘low’’ group. In order to explore the effects of high or low parental guidance on the average level of scaffolding (direct intervention) provided, a univariate ANOVA was performed on scaffolding scores. Results indicated a significant effect of the amount of parental guidance on scaffolding behaviors, F(1, 34) = 9.38, p < .004. Interestingly, the low guidance group had higher levels of scaffolding (M = 4.18, SD = 0.58) compared to the high guidance group (M = 3.65, SD = 0.43). Thus, mothers provided less overall guidance but more direct intervention to their children during the cooking task. Two transcript examples illustrate this finding. In the first example, a mother in the low guidance group provided a relatively high amount of direct intervention (4.63 on the six-point scale). She did much of the cooking activity herself, despite a high level of interest on the part of her child. Mother: ‘‘Let’s see how high we need to set the oven .375.’’ Mom preheats the oven and reads the directions. ‘‘Dump in the butter and the egg, stir it then add the mix . . . now the egg.’’ Child: ‘‘I want to do it.’’ Mom cracks the egg into the bowl. Child: ‘‘Mama!’’ Mother: ‘‘Yes, honey?’’ Child: ‘‘I want to stir it.’’ Mother holds the bowl while she stirs. Mother: ‘‘How about a fork? Do you want to use a fork? Would that be better?’’ Child shakes head no. In this second example, a mother who provides less direct intervention but is in the high guidance group shows greater sensitivity and interest in instruction during the cookie task. Mother: ‘‘How are we going to make them?’’ The child points to the bag, ‘‘First do this, then do this, then they turn into cookies.’’ Later in the transcript, the mother moves the egg carton over to the child and he gets out one egg. Mother: ‘‘How many are in there?’’ Child: ‘‘One, two, three.’’ Mother: ‘‘We just needed one.’’ Child: ‘‘Four.’’ Mother: ‘‘Yeah’’ (pushing egg carton away). Child: ‘‘But there was four.’’ Mother: ‘‘There were four altogether... Okay, now it says to heat our oven to 375 degrees. So let’s get the oven ready.’’ Child: ‘‘Well, we got to crack this in (he motions picking up the egg and cracking it) and tear all this paper off of here (picking up stick of margarine) and put it in the bowl.’’ Somewhat later . . . Mother: ‘‘Hmm, how are we going to get that egg in there?’’ Child picks up the egg, ‘‘Crack it!’’ Mother: ‘‘Okay, do you want to pour the egg in?’’ She brings over a small mug. Child: ‘‘Yep.’’ Mother: ‘‘You wanna crack?’’ Mother gives the child the egg. Child: ‘‘Wanna crack.’’ Child tries unsuccessfully to crack the egg in the mug. Mother: ‘‘Here we go. Let’s hit it on the table.’’ This mother and child in the latter example provided a clear illustration of guided participation in the sense that the social guidance is ‘‘jointly arranged’’ by both participants (Rogoff et al., 1984). Another excerpt from the same dyad illustrates the extent of the guidance offered by this mother, and how she uses this activity to teach her child about problem-solving and the tools for cooking. Mother: ‘‘We just need a cookie sheet. Do you know where they are?’’ Child: ‘‘Where are the cookie sheets?’’ Mother: ‘‘Do you know where we keep those?’’ Child: ‘‘In there.’’


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Mother: ‘‘Right. You pick out the one you want.’’ Child: ‘‘Okay!’’ Child looks in cabinet, grabs a cooling rack and closes cabinet. Child: ‘‘Right, mommy?’’ Mother: ‘‘Is that the cookie sheet? What do we use that for?’’ Child: ‘‘Um, cookies.’’ Mother: ‘‘Right, that’s the rack that we put them on so that they can cool, and we can what?’’ Child: ‘‘Eat.’’ Mother: ‘‘That’s right.’’ Child drops the rack on the counter. ‘‘Do we need that right now?’’ Child plays with the rack and mother stops stirring. Child: ‘‘That and this’’ (indicating the bowl of mix and cooling rack). Mother: ‘‘Uh huh, but wait a minute. We use that (rack) after they come out. What do we use first?’’ Child: ‘‘The bowl!’’ Mother: ‘‘We have to have the bowl but what else?’’ Child: ‘‘Oven.’’ Mother: ‘‘The oven, you’re right, and what else?’’ Child: ‘‘This’’ (holding up the cooking rack). Mother: ‘‘We don’t put that in the oven.’’ Child: ‘‘Oh yeah.’’ Mother: ‘‘What do we put in the oven?’’ Child: ‘‘Oh, the cookie dough!’’ Mother: ‘‘Now how about giving us the cookie sheet?’’ Child goes to the cabinet, puts away the cooling rack, and comes back without the cookie sheet. Mother: ‘‘Okay, but I’m still waiting on something.’’ Child: (yelling) ‘‘PAN!’’ Mother: ‘‘Yeah, go get it, the cookie sheet.’’ Child walks back to the cabinet and gets the cookie sheet. In both dyads, the children expressed a high level of interest in participating in this task. The mothers’ responses to the children’s interest differ dramatically. In general, across our sample, when mothers provided less guidance to their child overall, they appeared to be more interested in doing the task themselves or providing a higher level of direct intervention, perhaps in order to ensure successful and/or timely completion of the task. Mothers interested in teaching their child in a more global fashion (using high guidance throughout the event) may have provided more hints and prompts to get the child to accomplish the task successfully on his or her own, as demonstrated in the last excerpt. 3.3. Engagement Results indicated that mothers and children were highly engaged in the cooking activity. Across all steps, the average parent engagement (M = 2.85, SD = 0.19) exceeded child engagement (M = 2.26, SD = 0.37), t(35) = 8.27, p < .001. Subsequent paired t tests indicated that three steps did not follow this pattern. Parents and children were equally engaged in the steps ‘‘adding the egg,’’ ‘‘adding the cookie mix,’’ and ‘‘putting cookies on the sheet.’’ In order to assess the potential effects of child age and gender on their engagement in the cooking task, a 2 (age) Â 2 (gender) univariate ANOVA was performed on the average level of child engagement. Interestingly, there were no main effects of gender, showing that boys and girls, overall, were equally engaged in the cooking task. We also found that older and younger children were equally engaged in the task. A 2 (age) Â 2 (gender) ANOVA performed on the average level of parent engagement indicated that mothers of younger children (M = 2.91, SD = 0.14) were significantly more engaged than mothers of older children (M = 2.76, SD = 0.19), F(1, 32) = 6.57, p < .02. There was also a main effect of gender on parental engagement, F(1,32) = 9.18, p < .005. Mothers of boys (M = 2.93, SD = 0.10) were more engaged than mothers of girls (M = 2.75,

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SD = 0.22). These results were unexpected given the absence of effects of age and gender on children’s engagement, and were difficult to interpret without further study. The effects of high or low parental guidance on engagement was also investigated. Somewhat surprisingly, there were no effects of high or low parental guidance on parents’ engagement. However, children in the high parental involvement group were significantly more engaged in the cooking activity (M = 2.48, SD = 0.25) than children in the low parental involvement group (M = 2.02, SD = 0.33), F(1, 34) = 22.07, p < .001. Finally, the relationship of parent and child engagement to parental guidance was explored in a series of correlational analyses. Parent engagement was not significantly correlated with parental guidance. However, child engagement was significantly and positively correlated with all categories of parental guidance (r’s ranging from .49 to .71, p’s < .01). 3.4. Frequency of cooking together The mean rating of how frequently the dyads reported cooking together was 3.2 (SD = 0.91), indicating that most mothers involved their children in some form of cooking at least several times a month. A 2 (age) Â 2 (gender) univariate ANOVA yielded no significant main effects or interaction involving age and gender for the frequency of reported cooking activity. Results of Pearson’s correlation analyses indicated that frequency of cooking was negatively correlated with parental scaffolding, r = À .58, p < .003, and positively correlated with parental guidance, r =.49, p < .02. Parental and child engagement was not correlated with frequency of cooking together.

4. Discussion The present study was designed to investigate the nature and amount of support provided by parents to young children during a culturally relevant, home-based joint activity. We chose to examine cooking, an activity mothers often involve their young children in either as a special activity or as part of their normal routine. Mothers in our study reported that they enjoyed cooking with their children and did so at least several times a month. We also investigated the effects of children’s age, from 3 to 4 1/2 or 4 1/2 to 6 years, on parental scaffolding and overall guidance during the cooking activity. In addition, we assessed the engagement of mothers and their children while cooking. We found that mothers in our study did provide differential levels of support to younger versus older children. For example, mothers held their young child’s hand as they cracked the egg and together they dumped it into the bowl, or some mothers took over the task altogether, telling the child to watch them for next time, whereas with older children, mothers were more likely to provide lower levels of assistance, such as giving the child a strategy (e.g., telling the child to hit the egg hard against the side of the bowl) rather than actually helping them do the step. This was particularly true for two steps, reading the instructions and adding the egg. These were fairly difficult steps for young children, and also possibly steps in which older children had more skills. This suggests that parents provided scaffolding within children’s


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zone of proximal development or ZPD (Vygotsky, 1978; Wood, 1999). Similarly, in a study of parental scaffolding over a one-year period, Vandermaas-Peeler et al. (2002) found that both scaffolding and guidance decreased over time, further supporting the premise that parental support lessens with experience and ability. By decreasing the level of support as children gain experience and competence in the task, or are an appropriate age to assume more responsibility, parents encourage children to become more self-reliant and to develop strategies for performing the task on their own eventually. Neuman (1997) referred to this transfer of responsibility as ‘‘stepping back,’’ a critical feature of guided participation. Perhaps the finding that direct intervention decreased as children were older also explains why mothers of younger children were rated as more engaged in the ongoing activities than mothers of older children. Their children needed more assistance, and the mothers responded with interest and enthusiasm. One of the most interesting findings in the present study was that parents who provided high levels of guidance provided lower levels of scaffolding or intervention than parents employing less guidance in the cooking event overall, and that both guidance and scaffolding were correlated with mothers’ reported frequency of cooking with her child. Within the construct of parental guidance, a wide variety of behaviors were examined. Bornstein (1989) and O’Reilly and Bornstein (1993) have differentiated the roles parents emphasize when playing with their children, with some more social and others more didactic. The majority of the behaviors assessed with regard to parental guidance in our study had a didactic focus (e.g., simplifying the task, modeling, asking questions with known responses), and in fact, the more socially oriented behaviors such as responding to the child’s questions and joking and laughing with the child were equivalent in the high and low maternal guidance groups. Thus, our findings suggest that when mothers were engaged in more didactic roles during the joint cooking activity, they tended to use lower levels of direct intervention, providing more hints or helping the children perform the step rather than doing it for them. Mothers using lower amounts of guidance may have been more focused on successful or timely completion of the task without as much participation by the child, whereas parents providing a high degree of guidance appeared to be more focused on helping the child acquire increased responsibility for the task. This finding is consistent with the process of proleptic instruction (Wertsch, 1979), in which adults and learners are both involved in learning, and adults use explanation and demonstration, and emphasize the learner’s participation in the activity (Neuman, 1997). These conclusions are supported by the findings that frequency of cooking was positively associated with parental guidance, and negatively associated with parental scaffolding. This suggests that when the activity is a familiar context for the participants, the parents are more likely to use global guidance techniques and are less likely to intervene directly in the ongoing activities. It is important to note that in cases where the children were more familiar with the activity, their skills and interest may have been higher, which also would influence the levels of guided participation observed. As predicted, high parental guidance was related to higher levels of engagement in the children (though not parental engagement). This supports research suggesting that children’s affective responses are related to parental provision of support in problem-solving tasks (Pratt & Savoy-Levine, 1998). Was it the high amount of parental guidance that sustained the

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children’s interest, or were parents encouraged to provide more guidance to children who were highly engaged? Although no causal implications can be drawn from the present research, Rogoff’s (1990) theory of guided participation would suggest the importance of the child’s role during the shared activity. Children who are engaged in complex, naturalistic activities with their parents ask for help and support, offer suggestions for how to proceed, and expect their parents to carry on the work when they become bored (e.g., putting all the cookies on the cookie sheet). In a sense, some children ‘‘pull’’ the support from their parents, while others reject parents’ attempts to provide support. Our results reinforce the assumptions of active and engaged learning on the part of children in informal learning contexts, and also call for more intensive coding of the children’s behaviors in future scaffolding research. More attention to the dyadic behaviors, as well as independent coding of the children’s behaviors, is needed. In addition, generalizability will be enhanced with replication of the findings with a larger, more diverse sample, in a study that assesses parent and child behaviors in context. Rogoff and Gardner (1984) have asserted that children need to learn skills within a particular context, which they may then generalize and begin to apply to new problems or situations. Adults aid in this process by establishing contextual instruction that incorporates aspects of the culture and the environment relevant to the intellectual life of the child. It is important, therefore, for researchers to examine the types of instruction that are embedded in home-based, routine tasks, as well as laboratory-based instruction of experimental tasks. In prior research on parental scaffolding (e.g., Hodapp, Goldfield, & Boyatzis, 1984; Pellegrini, Brody, & Sigel, 1985; Rogoff, Ellis, & Gardner, 1984; Wood, 1999), parents were found to be sensitive to their children’s abilities. In the present study, we focused on parental guidance and dyadic engagement in a complex, home-based task, and were unable to measure outcomes of the child’s independent performance. There was such importance placed on the final product, edible cookies, that children were not allowed to fail, and thus we could not measure ‘‘success’’ as prior studies have done. Our results support the findings of Greenfield (1984) and others suggesting that parents do not allow their children to fail if the outcome of the task is important. However, we found interesting differences in the amount and type of support provided to children during a complex, home-based activity. Parents employing higher levels of overall guidance during the event provided less direct intervention during the activity, thus facilitating a higher level of participation on the part of the children. High parental guidance was also related to how frequently mothers and children engaged in cooking together in their normal routines, and to a higher level of children’s engagement in the task. These results highlight the importance of including measures of guidance, engagement, and frequency of performing the task together in scaffolding studies. Further exploration of the relationships between the type and amount of parental guidance and children’s engagement and abilities is warranted. References
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