The Role of Mealtimes in Fostering Language Development and Aligning Home and School Learning: Protocol for a Multi-Method Study of Preschool Children in Rural Kenya and Zambia


BACKGROUND: The association between school and home is fundamental to sustainable education: parents' understanding of the school's priorities and teachers' understanding of their pupils' home environment are both vital for children to remain in school and succeed academically. The relationship between parents and teachers is closest in preschool settings, providing a valuable opportunity to build bridges between home and school. In this protocol paper, we outline our planned methods for identifying beneficial home and school behaviors. OBJECTIVE: Our project aims to identify culture-specific structures and behaviors in home and school settings, which influence the quantity and quality of child-directed speech and identify positive experiences that can help improve children's linguistic development and nutrition. METHODS: Using a mixed methods approach and focusing on early language learning, nutrition, and responsive caregiving, we will video-record and analyze mealtime language and eating behaviors at home and in school, targeting 80 preschool children and their families in rural Kenya and Zambia. In addition, we will assess children's language skills through audio recordings and use questionnaire-based interviews to collect extensive sociodemographic and dietary data. RESULTS: Between the start of our project in January 2020 and the end of December 2021, we had collected complete sets of sociodemographic, observational, and food recall data for 40 children in Kenya and 16 children in Zambia. By the end of May 2022, we had started data collection for an additional 24 children in Zambia and transcribed and coded approximately 85% of the data. By the end of September, 2022, we plan to complete data collection, transcription, and coding for the entire sample of 80 children across both countries. From September 2022 onwards, we will focus on analyzing our language data, and we hope to have results ready for publication in early 2023. By relating children's language outcomes and nutritional intake to the observed mealtime behaviors, we hope to identify practices that increase the quantity and quality of child-directed speech and improve children's nutritional intake. CONCLUSIONS: Good nutrition and the promotion of language learning are key issues in early childhood development. By using a cross-cultural approach, combining a variety of methods, and working closely with stakeholders and policy makers throughout the project, we hope to find and share best practices for improving children's linguistic outcomes and nutrition and lay the foundation for the development of practitioner networks and parent outreach programs. INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): DERR1-10.2196/36925.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences > Aston Institute of Health & Neurodevelopment (AIHN)
College of Health & Life Sciences
College of Health & Life Sciences > Clinical and Systems Neuroscience
College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Optometry > Vision, Hearing and Language
Additional Information: ©Henriette Zeidler, Claire Farrow, Megan Jarman, Grace Koteng, Barnabas Simatende, Danielle Matthews, Haatembo Mooya, Laura R Shapiro, Pamela Wadende. Originally published in JMIR Research Protocols (, 05.07.2022. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Research Protocols, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included. Funding: Economic and Social Research Council (grant ES/T004959/1).
Uncontrolled Keywords: language learning,nutritional level,nutrition,caregiving,preschool education,education,student,environment,responsive caregiving,child-directed speech,academic,language development,children,language,school,speech,home
Publication ISSN: 1929-0748
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2024 07:09
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2022 10:33
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://www.res ... g/2022/7/e36925 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2022-07-05
Accepted Date: 2022-06-09
Submitted Date: 2022-01-30
Authors: Zeidler, Henriette
Farrow, Claire (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-3745-6610)
Jarman, Megan (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-4477-9314)
Koteng, Grace
Simatende, Barnabas
Matthews, Danielle
Mooya, Haatembo
Shapiro, Laura R (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-3276-457X)
Wadende, Pamela



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

| Preview

Export / Share Citation


Additional statistics for this record