Children's real-time behaviors during a model replication task

Jake McCallum, Daniel D. Suh, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Block building—a prevalent play activity—allows children to practice and develop spatial skills, including learning about the intrinsic properties and extrinsic spatial relations of blocks. Performance on block building taps individual differences in spatial skill and relates to later science and math skills. However, studies of block building typically ignore moment-to-moment block-building behaviors, and rarely target children from diverse backgrounds. We observed the real-time block-building behaviors of 120 5-year-olds from African American, Dominican, Mexican, and Chinese backgrounds as they attempted to replicate 3D block structures built by a researcher. For each structure, we coded time spent building, attention to the target structure, alignment of structure with the target, intrinsic and extrinsic errors, and final success. Alignment and checking related to low errors and high success, with Chinese children showing the most alignment, checking, and success. Shifting attention from “performance” to “process” sheds light on real-time learning during spatial tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101391
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • Culture
  • Ethnicity
  • Individual differences
  • Play
  • Spatial cognition
  • Spatial reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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