Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Baby and Toddler Scientists Wanted!

When I was on mat leave, I had one rule. We had to have something planned every day. Every single day I had to have something on our calendar. So Seb and I did it all...Gymboree Classes, Early Years Centre programs, Toronto Health baby programs, swimming lessons, Strollerfit, playdates at the park, visits to the library, anything that got us out of the house.

One day I came across this post that suggested putting your baby to work as a scientist. It suggests contacting your local university or college to see if they run any infant or child study programs that your baby could participate in. So, in the name of having something on the calendar every. single. day, I signed us up for the University of Toronto Mississauga Infant and Child Studies Lab.  This child studies centre focuses on children's perception of speech and music.

Seb was probably around 6 or 7 months old the first time I took him to participate in a study there. They were trying to learn more about at what age babies start to tell the difference between different languages.

We just went back again to the Child Studies Lab last weekend for another, different study. This time they were looking at how children associate colour with objects. For example, if you show him a picture of a blue chair and a picture of a yellow jacket, and then ask him where the banana is, will he choose the yellow jacket?

During the experiment part of the study, you sit with your baby or toddler on your lap while they either listen to something or watch a short video. You are given noise-cancelling headphones to wear so that you can't hear what your child hears and unconsciously influence their responses to the stimuli. The experiment part of the study takes less than 5 minutes, and they ask you some questions before and after while you and your little one play in a waiting room filled with toys and puzzles.

Full disclosure time - Seb did not love the experiment when he was a baby. We got about 2 minutes in, and they stopped the study because he was crying. I felt so bad because I had no idea. He was sitting on my lap facing forward, and not really moving around, and I had those noise cancelling headphones on (note to self - get these headphones for when I don't want to listen to toddler whining in the future), so I didn't even know he was upset. He was happy as a clam to play in the waiting room, but didn't love the experiment part.

Last weekend he loved the experiment part! Asking him questions about finding an object in a book or on a video is pretty much his favourite thing of all time right now. Our house is full of these Seek and Find books. The grad student working with us told us that he was very active during the video. That lots of children just look at the right answer, but that he was so excited and pointed very clearly with his finger every time.

As a little thank you, your baby/toddler gets to choose a book or toy to take home and gets their very own Junior Scientist degree from the University of Toronto.

If you want to find out more about the Infant and Child Studies Centre at U of T, here's their website. Just click on the 'For Parents' tab at the top to sign up. If you're not in the GTA, I'd encourage you check out to see if your local college or university has something similar.


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