THE BLOG

Hello everyone and welcome to the CORAL blog!

In this space, we will be sharing articles written by our team on current research in the field of language, social, and cognitive development.

You will find summaries of our own research (with the finished publication linked), as well as short articles about exciting research from across the globe! We hope you will learn a little more about child development and how current topics relate to your child and your own life.

Stay tuned for fun activities that you can do at home and within your communities, and for information on some virtual events you and your little ones will love!

If you’re happy and you know it: How do children infer emotions?

By: Jillian Rioux and Shaneene Heupel

The capacity to recognize and understand emotions is one of the most important abilities that one learns in life. This skill matures in the early years and is practiced throughout our lives. Understanding emotions allows us to engage in successful social interactions – such as empathizing with others – but also helps us to regulate our own emotions and behaviors. In almost everything we do, we must attend to our own and others’ emotions.


When does our understanding of emotions start?

Research suggests that emotions are something we become attune to as early as the first few months of life! At three months, infants can differentiate smiling from frowning faces, and at five months, they can distinguish between happy and sad vocalizations. By the time they reach their toddler years, children begin to recognize and label basic emotions, such as happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. By four, children understand that emotions can be affected by external causes. For example, they understand that someone who gets their favorite dessert would be happy. As they age, children begin to conceptualize that someone’s emotions can depend on their internal desires and beliefs, and they understand that someone can show mixed emotions towards one situation. This conceptualization of emotions advances progressively throughout their development, with the mastery of some emotions (happy, sad) before others (surprise, fear).


How do children infer emotions?

There are two leading theories that describe how children infer others’ emotions: by relying on memorized scripts and considering others’ mental states.


  1. Scripts

Scripts are knowledge structures which consists of sequences of concrete events that allow people to follow common social conventions. For example, you might have a script for a child’s birthday party that guides your behaviours: you show up to the party with a present, you play games, you sing to the birthday child, they blow out their candles, you eat cake, birthday child opens presents, and you get a party favour when you leave. With emotions, children come to learn various scripts and the emotions that accompany them. For example, your child might learn the script that people are happy when they open presents. So, the next time they see someone opening a present, they might infer that the person is happy.

Researchers from Boston College have found that children as young as 3-years-old are able to use scripts to infer emotions. Given stories about concrete events, they can predict the valence of people’s emotions (e.g., feels good or feels bad), as well as the specific emotion labels (e.g., happy, sad, angry).


  1. Mental States (desires, beliefs, goals)

In almost every social situation, we make predictions about how someone will act, respond, and feel based on what we know about their mental states, such as their desires, beliefs, and goals. Let’s take our birthday party scenario as an example: Having talked to the birthday child at school, your child knows that the birthday child wants a Lego set. But after opening all their presents, the birthday child realizes that they did not get a Lego set. From understanding the birthday child’s desires, your child will likely infer that the birthday child will be sad. This is an example of taking someone’s mental state into consideration when predicting how they feel!

Research shows that children’s ability to consider mental states when inferring emotions improves with age. Around age 2, children use people’s desires to infer simple emotions like happiness and sadness. But it is not until around age 7 that they can use people’s beliefs to infer complex emotions, like surprise and fear.                                                 


New research on how children infer emotions:

Probability

The two theories outlined above, inferring emotions through memorized scripts and mental states, are two prominent theories in the emotion literature. Over the past few years, Dr. Tiffany Doan, a recent PhD graduate from our DLL lab, has proposed an additional way children infer emotions: by using probability.


What is probability?

Probability is the likelihood of an event happening. For example, winning a contest is a likely event if few people enter, but is an unlikely event if thousands of people enter. Related to our understanding of emotions, how someone feels about the same outcome can differ depending on the probability of it occurring. Someone might feel happier about winning the contest if their odds of winning were low compared to high.


How do children use probability to infer emotions?

Let’s go back to our birthday party example. If asked to infer how a child feels about not being invited to a birthday party, your child’s inferences might differ depending on information about probability. If the birthday child was allowed to invite 20 classmates, your child might infer that the uninvited child would be very sad since the chances of getting an invite was high. However, if the birthday child was only allowed to invite two classmates, your child might infer that the uninvited child would be less sad, and perhaps even okay, since the chances of getting an invite was low.

A study conducted at the University of Waterloo investigated how children use probability to infer a particular emotion: happiness. In this study, researchers told children a story about a girl and a gumball machine that contained yummy and yucky gumballs. One group of children saw a machine that contained mostly yummy gumballs, and another group saw a machine that contained mostly yucky gumballs. Both groups were told that the girl wanted yummy gumballs, and watched her get two yummy and two yucky gumballs. Children were asked to rate how the girl felt using a happy face scale that ranged from extremely sad to extremely happy. Five- and 6-year-olds rated the girl as happier when the gumballs came from a mostly yucky gumball machine than when they came from a mostly yummy gumball machine. Rating the girl’s happiness differently despite her getting the same outcome suggests that children recognized that a better outcome was likely when the machine held mostly yummy gumballs and a worse outcome was likely when the machine held mostly yucky gumballs. Four-year-olds did not make the same inferences.

An additional experiment was conducted to see if 4-year-olds can use probability to determine the quality of an outcome, rather than using it to predict someone’s happiness. When given just the outcome of two yummy and two yucky gumballs, 4-year-olds judged that the outcome was better when they came from a mostly yucky gumball machine than when they came from a mostly yummy gumball machine. This suggests that they can use probability to infer the quality of outcomes.

In sum, by the age of four, children can use probability to infer the quality of an outcome, and by five, they can use probability to infer people’s happiness. These findings show that children infer emotions by relying on more than just memorized scripts and people’s mental states.


To summarize, the ability to infer people’s emotions is an important skill to master, and young children may use an array of cues to do so. They can rely on scripts, which are based on their memorization of the events that elicit each emotion. They can consider people’s mental states, like their desires, beliefs, and goals. And they can also use information about probability to infer how people feel.


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Doan, T., Friedman, O., & Denison, S. (2018). Beyond belief: The probability-based notion of surprise in children. Emotion, 18(8), 1163–

1173. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000394

Doan, T., Friedman, O., & Denison, S. (2020). Young Children Use Probability to Infer Happiness and the Quality of Outcomes.

Psychological Science, 31(2), 149–159. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797619895282

Lagattuta, K. H. (2005). When you shouldn't do what you want to do: Young children's understanding of desires, rules, and emotions. 

Child development, 76(3), 713-733. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00873.x

Widen, S. C., & Russell, J. A. (2011). In building a script for an emotion, do preschoolers add its cause before its behavior consequence?. 

Social Development, 20(3), 471-485. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9507.2010.00594.x

Like Peas in a Pod: What Do Preschoolers Understand About Friendship?

By: Jillian Rioux

It’s no secret that we get by with a little help from our friends: friendships are vital to our everyday lives. We often lean on our friends in times when we need an extra hand, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to listen to us unleash our inner thoughts. As adults, we have a pretty solid understanding of what friendship is, how friendships develop, and the importance they have in our lives. But when exactly does this conceptualization begin? When do children begin to develop friendships, and what do these early companionships look like? What do young children pay attention to when deciding who they want to be friends with?

 

It is likely that you can name off key qualities that you look for in a friend pretty easily. A study at the University of Kansas found six qualities that adults value in their friendships: enjoyment of time spent together, equal give-and-take of support and understanding, voluntary helping, similarities in attitudes and activities, intimate self-disclosure, and agency. But what about children? Do they attribute the same value to these qualities? Research shows that children actually view similar factors as being central to friendship! During the preschool years, the three central factors that children consider in their understanding of friendship are proximity, similarity, and prosocial interactions.


Proximity


Imagine you live in an apartment complex. You have neighbours in the units above and below you, and in the unit next to you. Who do you think you are most likely to become friends with: the woman in the unit above you, the student in the unit below you, or the couple next door? If you said the couple next door, then you answered the question based on proximity.


Proximity involves spending time in a close physical range to another individual. Sensitivity to proximity as a factor in friendships develops pretty early, as studies have shown that even 3-5-years-olds expect that the amount of time spent with another person is related to their friendship status, with more time spent together indicating better friendship. Researchers at the University of California and University of Chicago presented scenarios involving three characters to children, and asked them which two characters were more likely to be friends. Children in this study assumed the characters who spent a lot of time together, liked to play together, and who sat next to each other in class, were more likely to be friends.


Not only do children consider proximity as a factor in developing friendships, but in their own friendships, children also consider the quality of the time spent in proximity with someone. A study at the University of Illinois investigated this by collecting and analyzing audio recordings of 3-9-year-olds during several play sessions. They found that the children who engaged in clear communication (e.g., expressing which toy they wanted to use) and successfully managed conflicts during their interactions (e.g., settling disagreements) were the ones who became friends. In sum, preschool-aged children understand that the amount of time two people spend together is a cue to their friendship status and, in their own relationships, they are also affected by the quality of the time spent with others.

 

Similarity

      

Another key factor in early friendship understanding is similarity. Research shows that from a very young age, we selectively choose social partners who are similar to us. For example, 1-year-olds prefer puppets who have the same food preferences as them, and 3-year-olds prefer individuals who share similar preferences and look like them. By the time children are of preschool-age, they begin to make inferences about others’ friendships based on their similarities. For example, they assume that two people of the same gender or race are likely to be friends, and they begin to view similarities in skills or experiences as cues to friendship, such as a passion for playing the piano or a similar travel experience to the zoo!

        However, preschoolers also recognize that there are limits to the types of similarities that signal friendship. For example, children understand that arbitrary similarities, like sharing a birthday, are not relevant cues to friendship.

 

Prosocial interactions


        We know that children see factors like proximity and similarity as important factors for developing friendships and that the quality of interactions matters as well. What kinds of behaviours do children expect friends to engage in? This brings us to the third key factor in children’s understanding of friendships: prosocial interactions.


Prosocial interactions include a wide range of positive behaviours, such as helping, sharing, and engaging in intimate self-disclosure. Many studies have found that preschoolers will share, help, support, and comfort their friends, and that they expect their friends to do the same for them. In brief, children recognize that support is a crucial component of a friendship. Not only do they recognize the importance of prosocial behaviour in their own friendships, but children also recognize this factor in others’ friendships as well. One study from Harvard University found that 4-year-olds infer friendship between individuals who help each other complete a task. Another study from the University of California and University of Chicago found that 3-6-year-olds infer friendship between two individuals if one provides help to the other. In short, preschoolers expect people to be friends with those who have helped them!

        

To summarize, our understanding of friendship evolves at a young age. Starting during the preschool years, we actively seek individuals who are near us, who help and share with us, and who share similar skills and experiences with us to be friends with, and our use of these factors become deeper and more complex as we age. Do you think these factors have played a role in your little one’s friendships?


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


Afshordi, N. (2019). Children’s Inferences About Friendship and Shared Preferences Based on Reported Information. Child

Development, 90.(3), 719-717. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13237

Afshordi, N., & Liberman, Z. (2021). Keeping friends in mind: Development of friendship concepts in early childhood. Social

Development, 30.(2), 331-342. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12493

I choose you! How do children decide who to ask for help?

By: Jessica Huang

Children encounter many people in their day-to-day lives, and they’re absorbing a lot of information rapidly. Sometimes, children can receive conflicting information from others, so how do children decide whose information to trust?

This is what Kathleen Corriveau and Katherine Kinzler explored in their study involving 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. They asked what children prioritize when two potential cues to people’s knowledge conflict.

The children were presented with two female English-Spanish bilingual speakers. To start, the children heard each speaker tell a little story, which familiarized them to each speaker’s accent. One spoke in English with a native English accent and the other spoke in English with a Spanish accent. After this, children were introduced to several novel toys. They were asked which girl they would want to find out the name of the toys from. This served as the children’s baseline preference – before they learned more about the speakers’ knowledge, did children prefer the native-accented speaker or the non-native accented speaker? Previous research has shown that children typically prefer native-accented speakers. Next, children learned more about each speaker’s competence in naming objects . Children were presented with several familiar objects and watched each speaker label them. One speaker always labelled the items correctly and the other speaker always labelled the items incorrectly. For example, the accurate speaker would label a spoon with the correct label, spoon, but the inaccurate speaker would label it as a duck. Children were then shown additional novel toys and had to indicate which girl they wanted to ask for help to find out their names.

Before children had learned anything about how good the speakers were at naming objects, children across all three age groups were most likely to endorse the native-accented speaker. In other words, they were more likely to indicate they wanted to ask the native-accented girl to find out the name of the novel toy. Children’s preferences changed once they learned more about how accurate the speakers were at naming. When the native-accented speaker correctly labelled the familiar items, children continued to prefer the native speaker. However, when the native-accented speaker incorrectly labelled the familiar items, the 4-and 5-year-olds showed a clear shift in preference, endorsing the non-native accented speaker. 3-year-olds didn’t show a clear preference for either speaker in this case, which indicates that they aren’t prioritizing accuracy over accent in the way that older children are. Children were also asked why they thought the speakers were wrong. When the native-accented speaker was wrong, most children said it was because “she was just pretending.” When the non-native accented speaker had been incorrect, most children said it was because “she didn’t know” the names of the familiar items.   

This study is incredibly interesting because it demonstrates the complex ways in which children weigh conflicting cues to choose who might give them better information in a particular situation. Older children don’t show a stable preference for native-accented speakers. Instead, their judgement is flexible and depends on other cues about people’s knowledge. This study also demonstrates how children attribute the same kind of error to different causes, depending on who the speaker is!

Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Corriveau, K. H., Kinzler, K. D., & Harris, P. L. (2013). Accuracy trumps accent in children's endorsement of object labels. Developmental Psychology, 49(3), 470–479. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030604

Fun Nature Crafts

By: Julianna Lu

Suncatcher Wind Chimes

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You Will Need:


· Contact/self-adhesive paper

· Marker/pen

· Rings from mason jar lids

· Scissors

· Stick (optional)

· String

· Tape


Instructions:


1. Using the ring from a Mason jar lid, trace a circle onto the contact paper (non-adhesive side). Trace as many circles as you wish to make. It might be helpful to tape the contact paper onto your working surface to prevent the paper from slipping.

2. On a flat surface, peel the cover from the adhesive side of the contact paper. Make sure that the sticky side is facing up.

3. Stick on nature items (e.g., leaves, flower pedals, etc) to fill in the circles. Be as creative as you like!

4. Once you have the desired look, place another piece of contact paper over top and flatten gently.

5. Carefully use the scissor to cut out the circles that were traced. It might be helpful to cut the circle slightly smaller than the tracing, so that they can fit snug into the mason jar ring.

6. Before placing the circle cutouts into the mason jar ring, cut some pieces of string. The string will be used to hang your suncatcher, so the length can be as short/long as you’d like!

7. Tie a knot around the ring with the cut string.

8. Push the suncatcher circles into the mason jar ring. Use a piece of tape to secure it in place.

9. Voila! You have just made your own suncatcher! Hang them outside or indoors! Optional step: Tie each individual suncatcher onto a stick, so that they can hang together.




From: http://handsonaswegrow.com/nature-suncatcher-wind-chimes/

Mason Jar Terrarium

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You will need:

· Mason jar or any recycled jar

· Moss (optional, you can find this in your yard)

· Pebbles and/or rocks

· Potting soil

· Small plant (e.g., succulents, seeds)

· Spoon


Instructions:


1. To begin layering your mason jar terrarium, place some pebbles at the bottom of the jar. Try to place the bigger pebbles/rocks toward the bottom of the jar. The purpose of this is to ensure that our terrarium has appropriate drainage (we don’t want to drown our plants!). Fill your jar with pebbles/rocks until it reaches about ¼ to ⅓ of the jar’s height.

2. Next, carefully add a layer of dried moss, which you can find in your yard. This step is optional. The moss also helps with the drainage.

3. Using a spoon, carefully layer soil on top of the moss and/or pebbles. The height of the soil should match or slightly exceed the height of the pebbles (e..g, ¼ to ⅓ of the jar’s height). You want to ensure that the layer of soil is deep enough for roots to grow.

4. Hollow out a shallow hole in the soil; this is where you will place your plant/seed.

5. If you are planting a seed: place the seed in the shallow hole.

If you are planting a succulent: Before placing the succulent in your terrarium, very gently, break away some of the soil around the roots. Loosening the roots before planting allows the roots to spread and grow in all directions.

6. Place the succulent into the shallow hole created from Step 4.

7. Carefully cover the roots or seed with the soil.

8. Top your soil layer with a thin layer of pebbles or moss and add any fun decorations! (e.g., toy dinosaurs)

From: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/diy-mason-jar-terrarium-t_b_8210924

Can you guess where I’m from? Children use accents to figure out where people live

By: Jessica Huang

For adults, a person’s accent is a strong cue to where they are from. For example, you will probably assume someone with a Japanese accent is from Japan and someone with Mexican accent is from Mexico. Do children understand that there is a link between accent and background? It turns out they do! Even if children’s inferences are not as sophisticated as adults’, studies have shown that, when asked, children will say that someone with the same accent as them lives in the same area as them (and that someone with a different accent lives in a different place than they do). But these early studies involved children comparing their own accents to someone else’s. Do children also understand more generally that people with the same accent tend to share the same background and that people with different accents have different backgrounds?

To explore these questions, Weatherhead and colleagues conducted a study with 3- to 5-year-olds. In experiment 1, children were introduced to two speakers with the same unfamiliar accent. Children were assigned to one of two conditions, either the background or the preference condition. In the background condition, children were told where one of the speakers lived (e.g., she lives in a snowy place). They were then asked where the other speaker lived. Children were presented with three options: the same snowy place and two other locations. In the preference condition, children were told about the favourite colour of the first speaker instead. Then, children were asked about the other speaker’s favourite colour. They were presented with three options, with one of the options being the same colour.

If children in the background condition understand that two people with the same unfamiliar accent are likely to come from the same place, they should choose the same location for the second speaker at an above-chance rate (33%). However, since people who come from the same place do not necessarily have the same colour preferences, children should not choose the same colour for the second speaker at an above-chance rate. As predicted, results showed that children in the background condition chose the same location at a higher rate than chance, indicating that they inferred the two speakers came from the same place. Children in the preference condition chose the same colour at a rate below chance, indicating that they did not expect two speakers with the same accent to necessarily share the same preferences.   

In a follow-up study, 4- to 5-year-old children heard two speakers with two different unfamiliar accents. As in the first study, they were told where one speaker lived, then asked where the second speaker lived. In this condition, children were less likely to choose the same place. This indicates that children don’t make the generalization that anyone with an unfamiliar accent comes from the same place. They can tell accents apart, and seem to be sensitive to the fact that speakers with different accents (even when both accents are unfamiliar) are likely to come from different places. 

Overall, the two studies indicate that children can make sophisticated inferences based on someone’s accent. Children believe that people with the same accents share some of the same experiences – like where they are from -- but they do not generalize this to assume that they share everything. They also assume that people with different accents come from different places. So even though young children don’t know much about specific countries yet, they still have basic assumptions that how someone talks can tell you something about where they are from!


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


Weatherhead, D, White, K.S., & Friedman, O. (2016). Where are you from? Preschoolers infer background from accent. Journal of

Experimental Child Psychology, 143, 171-178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2015.10.011

3 cues that children use to help guide their word learning

By: Ashley Avarino and Shaneene Heupel

Every day, children are faced with an incredible amount of new information in their environment: new smells, new sights, new people and new objects. Not only do they need to take in all this new information, but they also need to learn how to communicate about it. One example of this is when children are faced with learning the names for things in their environment. This may seem like a straightforward task, especially since infants make it look easy and effortless! But, it’s actually a huge challenge! 


The Gavagai Problem

Let’s put ourselves in their shoes by diving into The Gavagai Problem. The Gavagai Problem was put forward by Willard Van Orman Quine, a popular 20th Century Philosopher. Quine’s thought experiment demonstrates one of the main challenges children are faced with during word learning: in any given situation in which they might hear a new word, there are endless possibilities for what that word could mean!


Imagine that you’re standing next to someone who speaks a different language from you. All of a sudden, a rabbit runs by and they yell “Gavagai!”. How would you know what they were referring to? You may think that it’s obvious that they are referring to the rabbit, but they really could be referring to just about anything! Gavagai could refer to the speed of the rabbit, the colour of the rabbit, it could be a phrase for being startled, or perhaps they didn’t even see the rabbit run by and they’re referring to something else entirely.



The Gavagai Problem demonstrates that in any given learning situation, there are many possibilities for what a word could mean. This gives us a bit of a sense of what children are faced with when learning the words of their native language.


The Gavagai Problem: A Child’s Perspective


Let’s frame The Gavagai Problem from a child’s perspective: Imagine that your little one just got a new toy hammer and that you’ve placed it in their toy basket. That evening you’re sitting in the living room, and you say “Do you like your hammer?”. Although to you it might seem obvious that you are referring to their new toy, to your little one, who doesn’t yet know what a hammer is, you really could be referring to just about anything! So, how does your child figure out that you are referring to the hammer?



In this blog we walk you through 3 strategies that young children use to help them solve the Gavagai Problem and figure out what words refer to in their immediate environment.

 

Strategy 1: Joint Attention

You might notice that as you are talking to your little one about things around them, they are pretty good at attending to the things that you’re attending to. The ability to attend to someone else’s focus of attention is called joint attention, and it can help learners solve The Gavagai Problem. In our Hammer example above, your child might check to see where you’re looking when you use the word, “Hammer”. If they see that you are looking at the toy box, they will assume that you are probably talking about something in there!


Strategy 2: Mutual Exclusivity

Another strategy that your child might use to help them figure out which toy you’re labelling is called mutual exclusivity. Mutual exclusivity is a bias to assume that each kind of object only has one label. So, if your child already has a name for the other toys in their toy box, they can make the assumption that when you say “Hammer!” you’re referring to the new toy: the object they do not yet have a name for!


Strategy 3: Whole-Object Bias

But wait! Even though they’ve narrowed down that you’re talking about the hammer, there are still so many things about the hammer that you could be referring to. How does your child know that you’re not talking about the shape, the colour, the texture, or a specific part of the hammer? How do they infer that “hammer” refers to the object as a whole? The answer to this is another bias: the whole object bias. The whole object bias is an assumption that labels refer to objects as a whole, rather than their parts. This is part of the reason why so many of a child’s earliest words are object words.


Working Together to Solve The Gavagai Problem

We know that children use these three strategies to help guide their word learning In fact, children are often using these strategies simultaneously – for example, they may use your eye gaze to isolate the direction of what you’re talking about and then pick out the most likely whole object. But these strategies also require different levels of expertise. For example, in order to use the mutual exclusivity bias, your child needs to already know some words. Learning language is a huge task – but learners have many strategies like these in their toolbox to help them do it!  

Children are curious to learn about people who are different from them!

By: Claudia Sehl

Imagine there are two new kids at your little one’s school: one is from a local town, and the other is from a distant country. Based on this information alone, who do you think the students would rather play with on the first day?

You might predict that children would rather play with the kid from the local town. Some research has shown that from the age of five, children prefer to be friends with people who are similar to them. They chose to be friends with people who speak their language, share their accents, are the same gender, are the same race, or like the same things (e.g., Fawcett & Markson, 2010; Kinzler et al., 2007).

Results from this research might tell us that children typically prefer people who are similar to them. However, children’s preferences might change when making a different choice. For instance, who do you think the students would be more interested to learn about during show-and-tell? You might guess that students would choose the child from far away because they probably have more new and interesting experiences to share than the child from nearby.

In our research at the CORAL lab, we explored this question by asking children who they like more andwho they want to learn more about (Sehl et al., 2021). In our first experiment, we showed 4-6-year-olds two characters. One character lived in Canada and had characteristics typical of people living here. For example, they lived in a place with a flat grassy landscape, North American houses, and where people play soccer. The other character lived far away and had characteristics atypical of Canadians. For example, they lived in a place with a rugged mountainous landscape, huts, and where people play hurling. We asked children who they liked better and who they wanted to learn more about. Children chose the foreign character more often when choosing who they wanted to learn about than who they liked better.

But what if children just wanted to learn about the far away character because they have interesting, unfamiliar traits? We conducted another experiment to find out whether children’s preferences are due to the foreign character’s distance or to their unfamiliar traits. We showed 4-6-year-olds the same characters, but this time, children were only told whether characters lived nearby or far away. We found that by age six, children preferred foreign characters more when choosing who they wanted to learn more about than who they liked.

This research tells us a lot about children’s social preferences: children may like people who are similar to them, but may be more curious to learn about people who are different than them. This also provides us insights that children’s social preferences change when making different choices.


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


Fawcett, C. A., & Markson, L. (2010). Similarity predicts liking in 3-year-old children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 105(4),

345-358.

Kinzler, K. D., Dupoux, E., & Spelke, E. S. (2007). The native language of social cognition. Proceedings of the National Academy of

Sciences, 104(30), 12577-12580. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0705345104

Sehl, C. G., Friedman, O., & Denison, S. (2021). Children's Novelty Preferences Depend on Information-Seeking Goals. In Proceedings of

the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (Vol. 43, No. 43)

What can uhhhs and ummms tell us?

By: Shaneene Heupel


When we talk, we don’t always speak perfectly fluently. We make all sorts of corrections or hesitations, like saying “ummm” and “uhhh”. You might think that these sorts of things are unnecessary and you might even think that they make it harder for a listener to understand what someone is saying. But, research has shown that these types of hesitations (also called disfluencies) are actually kind of important and can provide a lot of information to people listening! In one of our labs, the Lab for Infant Development and Language, run by Dr. Katherine White, we have been exploring how children interpret these types of disfluencies in speech.


Umms and uhhs can provide two main kinds of information for listeners. The first is that they can tell listeners how confident someone is in what they are saying. For example, if you ask someone whether the next step in a recipe is to beat the eggs or to add the milk, and they say, “Uhh, I think the next step is to beat the eggs…”, you might not be very sure that that is indeed the next step! After all, they don’t sound very confident about it. In one study, we asked whether children use speech fluency to help them decide who has better information. In this study, children were presented with two puppets. First, the puppets each named three familiar objects. One of the speakers talked about the objects fluently, while the other talked about them disfluently (e.g., “This is a clock” vs. “This is a uhhh clock”). After labelling familiar objects, each puppet pointed at and labelled one of two unfamiliar objects, with the same label (e.g., “This is a blicket” vs. “This is a uhhh blicket”).

Children were asked which of the two objects was labelled correctly. Children’s responses showed they “trusted” the fluent speaker’s label for the new object more than they “trusted” the disfluent speaker’s label. In past blog posts, we’ve talked about how children choose to learn information from someone who has been more accurate in the past, or who seems more likely to know the information (like a child, when the topic is toys!) But these results show that children might also decide whether to learn from a person in a particular situation because of how sure they sound.


Disfluencies can occur when a speaker is unsure, but they can also arise for other reasons. For example, speech disfluencies can occur when a speaker changes topics, probably because it can take a little time to get your brain ready to talk about the new topic. For example, imagine you are talking to your friend about something that happened during a TV show, then they ask you how to make your famous black bean burgers. Your friend’s recipe question might have caught you off guard because you weren’t thinking about it! This might cause you to pause as you switch topics, but not because you don’t know your recipe! Research has shown that listeners seem to be sensitive to this aspect of disfluencies, too! In another study we did, we presented children with two pictures, like a ball and a dog. We then had a recording of someone talking about one of the pictures (“Look at the ball! I see a ball!”). When they heard this, children looked at the ball. But if they then heard the person say, “Look at the uhhh….”, children started looking at the dog, even before they heard the word! This is because they assumed that if the person was hesitating, they were about to switch topics and talk about the other picture.


All of this is to say that hesitations like disfluencies (umms and uhhs) are just a normal part of speech! These types of speech patterns are actually giving listeners important information, and even young kids know how to interpret them!


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

White, K., Nilsen, E., Deglint, T., Silva, J., (2019). That’s thee, uhh blicket! How does disfluency affect children’s word learning? First Language, 40(1), 3-20.

Orena, A. J..& White, K. (2015). I Forget What That’s Called! Children’s Online Processing of Disfluencies Depends on Speaker Knowledge. Child Development, 86(6), 1701-1709.


Activities for Kids That Explore Their Sense of Smell!

By: Venus Ho

Many sensory activities that kids do are touch-focused, but kids can learn a lot by using their other senses too. In this article, we share 3 activities that you and your child can do to explore their sense of smell with their nose! In each activity, you can also encourage discussion with your child and promote language development by talking about:

- The different colours

- How to describe different scents

- What the scent reminds your child of

- Any foods your child has tried with a similar scent

Smell & Guess

Spice Paint

Matching Tea Bags

You Will Need:

· A blender

· A variety of fruits that you can blend (e.g., strawberry, grape, banana)

· Containers to put the blended fruits into

· Sticky notes

· Pen

Instructions:

1. For each fruit that you have, blend them separately into a smoothie. For example, if you have bananas, grapes, and cherries, you would blend them all separately so you would end up with 3 different smoothies - one banana, one grape, and one cherry.

2. Pour each smoothie into a container.

3. Label each container with a different number (e.g, from 1-3) using a sticky note. Keep an answer key for yourself so you know which container has which fruit.

4. Ask your child to smell each container and guess which fruit each container has.


Optional: You can also ask your child to do a taste test for each container. This will allow them to explore their sense of taste as well!


From: handsonaswegrow.com

You will need:

· A variety of different coloured paints (e.g., white, yellow, brown)

· A variety of different spices (e.g., vanilla, turmeric, cinnamon)

· Paintbrushes

· Containers for the paint

· Paper to paint on

Instructions:

1. Mix in a dash of spice into each paint. You can choose to match the colour of the paint with each spice (white paint with vanilla, yellow paint with turmeric, and brown paint with cinnamon) or get creative! The more spice you add, the stronger the fragrance will be.

2. Give your child a paintbrush and a piece of paper! While they paint, they will be able to smell the different scents!
















From: www.nurturestore.co.uk

You will need:

· Different flavours of tea bags (the more flavours, the better!)

Instructions:

1. For each flavour of tea, leave 1 tea bag inside the packaging and take 1 tea bag out. You can set aside the remaining tea bags for future activities.

2. Ask your child to smell the tea bag inside the packaging and to match the scent with the individual tea bags.















From: www.fantasticfunandlearning.com

Crafting with Food: Winter themed dessert recipes to try with kids

By: Olivia Ng

Chocolate Pinecones

Marshmallow Snowmen

Snowman Oreos

Having to stay at home can be a difficult experience for kids and parents. However, finding activities to do together can be a fun way for your kids to improve their cognitive and language development! This blog presents some collaborative winter-themed crafting recipes for the family, but are simple enough for your kids to do on their own. To encourage your kids to think about the activities, you can ask them questions such as, “Why does the chocolate melt when it’s hot but not the banana or pretzels? What month is it now? So this is a winter month – what is a summer month? What kinds of things could we make in the summer?” You can also teach them about numbers and counting, tastes and textures, and states of matter (i.e., melting). This can be a fun experience to relieve boredom while at home, as well as a hands-on way to teach concepts and develop skills!

You Will Need:

· 3 cups Chocolate Fiber One Cereal (can also use Chex Chocolate Cereal)

· 6 pretzel rods

· 1⁄2 cup peanut butter

· 1⁄4 cup Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread

· 3 tablespoons butter, softened

· 1 cup powdered sugar (+ 1⁄4 cup for dusting on top)


Instructions:

1. Mix the peanut butter, Nutella, butter and powdered sugar in a bowl.

2. Take a pretzel rod and mould some of the mixture around it, forming a cone shape.

3. Hold it steady by using the tip of the pretzel as a handle, and start inserting pieces of cereal into the mixture in a symmetrical pattern around the stick. Add more cereal pieces, staggering them as you move upward until you get near the top.

4. If the pine cone is getting too tall, cut off the top of the pretzel and add more of the mixture to mold over the top so none of the broken pretzels are showing.

5. Break apart cereal pieces to create smaller scales near the top.

6. For a “snowy” effect, dust each pine cone with powdered sugar.

From:

<https://thethriftycouple.com/edible-chocolate-pinecones-recipe-with-freshly-fallen-snow-easy-show-stopping-recipe/comment-page-1/>

You will need:

· 1 banana

· ½ cup of chocolate chips

· 3 M&M pieces

· 4 pieces of white chocolate

Instructions:

1. Microwave chocolate chips in a bowl for 1 minute, taking them out to stir after 30 seconds.

2. Cut the banana in half.

3. Dip the pointed ends into the chocolate until the top and sides have been covered.

4. Attach 2 pieces of white chocolate onto the top of each banana as the eyes and half of an orange M&M as a beak. Also, attach two halved orange M&M’s at the bottom of the banana for the penguin’s feet.

From:

<https://sadlercrazylife.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/crafty-christmas-snack-frozen-banana-penguin/>

You will need:

· 1 Package Oreo Cookies

· 1/2 lb Almond Bark or Candy coating

· 1/4 cup Regular Chocolate Chips

· 1/4 cup Mini Chocolate Chips

· 1/4 cup Candy Corn


Instructions:

1. Melt the almond bark in short increments in the microwave in a small bowl, stirring occasionally until smooth.

2. Place an Oreo in the melted almond bark. Flip it using a large fork. Ensure the cookie is completely coated. Keeping the fork tines level, gently tap the handle of the fork on the rim of the bowl. Use a straight up and down motion so the cookie doesn’t slide off of the fork. This will give a nice smooth coating on top of the cookie. Place the cookie on a piece of wax or parchment paper.

3. To build the face start with the nose. Place an ear of Candy corn right in the middle of the cookie

4. Next, stick two regular Chocolate Chips, pointy end down, just above the Candy corn for the eyes.

5. Place 6 Mini Chocolate Chips beneath the Candy corn to make a smile.

6. Let cool and set for at least 20 minutes.

7. Store in an airtight container.

From:

https://artfulparent.com/melting-ice-science-experiment-with-salt-liquid-watercolors/

How do children determin who is the expert?

By: Venus Ho


In one of our previous blog posts “How do children choose who to learn from?”, we talked about how children use various cues, such as past accuracy, confidence, and expertise, to determine whether a person is a reliable source of information! From a very young age, children are aware that some people are misinformed, so they are constantly evaluating whether people are knowledgeable and trustworthy. In today’s blog post, we will be continuing our discussion on how children are careful learners by sharing more research on how children determine who has expertise!

Studies have shown that children, as young as 3 years old, use a person’s title to determine whether they have expertise in a specific area. Titles, such as “lawyer”, “doctor”, and “car mechanic”, act as a cue to the training and knowledge a person has. For instance, 3-year-olds are able to point out that “car mechanics” are more likely to know about how to fix cars, while “doctors” are more likely to know how to help sick people. As they grow older, children’s ability to do this becomes more advanced and they are able to link titles to broader areas of knowledge. For instance, 4 to 5-year-olds are able to point out that “car mechanics” are more likely to know about how physical objects work in general (e.g., how a yo-yo works), while “doctors” are more likely to know about biological topics in general (e.g., why plants need sunlight to grow).

Additionally, ownership is another cue to expertise that children use. In one study, 4- and 5-year-olds judged that owners of an object were more likely to have knowledge about that object than someone who liked the object but did not own it. This makes sense since owners typically become very knowledgeable of their property through frequent use! 5-year-olds also judged that a person who has deeper knowledge about an object (e.g., knowing how to fix it) was more likely to be the owner of that object than a person who only has superficial knowledge about the object (e.g., knowing what colour the object is). Thus, ownership may also be a strategy that children use to determine who has more expertise and knowledge about objects they want to learn about.



Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


Lutz, D. J., & Keil, F. C. (2003). Early Understanding of the Division of Cognitive Labor. Child Devekopment, 73(4), 1073-1084.

Nanncekivell, S. E., Ho, V., & Denison, S.. Who knows what? (2020) Preschoolers appreciate the link between ownership and knowledge. Developmental Psychology, 56(5), 880-887.

Imaginary Companions in Childhood and their Psychological Importance

By: Julianna Lu


Children are known for having remarkable imaginations. Beginning from ages two or three, many children engage with imaginary companions; fictitious people, animals or objects that children create. Talking and playing with an imaginary friend is a normal psychological phenomenon. Interestingly, these imaginary relationships play a role in human thought and can be constructive in children’s development of social relationships and other areas of development such as cognition. For example, playing with an imaginary companion provides children with opportunities to practice skills that are useful for later social interactions and emotional regulation. Indeed, imaginary relationships often mirror real-life relationships in that they are associated with emotion, and the imaginary bonds created can be endured over a period of time.

Therefore, there are many benefits to playing with an imaginary friend. Here are three different examples of how having an imaginary friend contributes to child development.


  1. Playing with an imaginary friend can contribute to their language development.


Research shows that engaging with an imaginary friend may support children’s language development. In

2009, Trionfi and Reese compared the vocabulary and narrative skills between children with or without imaginary companions. Five-year-old children and their mothers were interviewed about the child’s imaginary companion. Children were assessed on their level of engagement with an imaginary companion, on their receptive and expressive vocabulary skills, story comprehension, and ability to retell a story. Findings suggest that children with an imaginary companion told richer narratives when asked to retell a story. However, there was no significant difference in vocabulary skills among children with or without an imaginary companion. Nevertheless, children’s engagement with an imaginary companion contributes to their development of narrative skills, which can, later, bolster children’s reading skills.

  1. Children who have an imaginary companion have better Theory of Mind (ToM) and emotional understanding.


Theory of Mind (ToM) is an important social-cognitive ability that develops throughout early to middle childhood. It is defined as the ability to consider one’s own and other people’s mental states. For example, understanding that other people may have different desires and will act accordingly to achieve what they want is one aspect of ToM. Ultimately, ToM is a foundational element for social interaction.

In a study conducted by Giménez-Dasía, and colleagues in 2014, children with imaginary companions showed better ToM when compared to children without imaginary companions. The creation of an imaginary friend fosters the understanding of mental states. Similar to pretend play, engaging with an imaginary friend requires children to create mental representations. For example, they may create characters who possess different beliefs, desires, and goals. Therefore, playing with an imaginary companion is a great way to foster perspective-taking.

  1. Having an imaginary companion bolsters emotional understanding.


In the same study mentioned above, Giménez-Dasía and colleagues found that children who had an imaginary companion were more advanced in their emotional understanding. To measure children’s emotional understanding, participants were evaluated on their ability to recognize basic emotions, their understanding of the impact of external variations on emotions, their ability to understand the impact of beliefs on emotion, and a variety of other features related to emotional understanding. Participants were told a story about a character and after hearing the story, they were asked to label the emotion that best described how the character was feeling. For example, to assess their understanding of the impact of external variations on emotions, they were told the following story: “This girl is being chased by a monster. How is she feeling? Happy, just alright, or scared?” Overall, the findings suggest that children with an imaginary companion had a higher level of emotional understanding than children without an imaginary companion. During these imaginary interactions, children are constructing a reciprocal conversation. They are learning to take different perspectives which allows them to better understand the emotions of another person.

To summarize, having an imaginary companion is a normal and healthy component of play during childhood. Although it was historically viewed as a cause for concern, research on imaginary companions has demonstrated its beneficial role in children’s language development, theory of mind, emotional understanding, and many other areas of child development. But not having an imaginary friend is just fine too – some children enjoy this kind of play and other children find different types of play more fun and rewarding! Nearly every type of childhood play offers specific benefits to cognitive, physical, and language development.


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


Taylor, M., & Carlson, S. M. (1997). The Relation between Individual Differences in Fantasy and Theory of Mind. Child Development, 68(3), 436–455. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131670

Gleason, T.R. The psychological significance of play with imaginary companions in early childhood. Learn Behav 45, 432–440 (2017). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13420-017-0284-z

Giménez-Dasí, M., Pons, F., & Bender, P. K. (2016). Imaginary companions, theory of mind and emotion understanding in young children. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 24(2), 186-197. DOI:10.1080/1350293X.2014.919778


Winter Science Experiments

By: Emily Stonehouse

Crystal Snowflake Ornaments

Bird Seed Ornaments

Melting Ice

You Will Need:

· Borax

· Water

· Large jar/vase

· Craft sticks/pencils

· String

· Pipe cleaners

· Paper towel


Instructions:

1. Cut your pipe cleaner into thirds, place the pieces together and twist the center to hold them together and pull the 6 sides to look like a snowflake

2. Cut 6 1.5” pieces of pipe cleaner and twist one onto each arm to make it look more like a snowflake

3. Tie a long piece of string to the center of the snowflake and wrap the other end around a pencil

4. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of borax powder in a cup of boiling water and then fill your jar with the solution

5. Hang your snowflakes inside the jar. They should be fully emerged but not touching the sides/bottoms of the jar. Use the pencil on the other end of the string across the top of the jar to hold it in place

6. Leave them for a couple of hours to start seeing changes, leave alone for 24 hours although you can keep checking in to watch the crystals grow!

7. Gently lift the snowflakes our and leave them to dry on paper towels for about a hour, then they’re ready to hang up and enjoy!


From:

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/crystal-snowflake-ornament-science-activity-kids/

You will need:

· 1/2 cup cold water

· 1/2 cup boiling water

· 2 packages of gelatin

· 2 tablespoons of corn syrup

· 2.5 cups of bird seed

· Cookie cutters

· Straws

· Parchment paper

· String

Instructions:

1. Mix the gelatin with the cold water until it completely dissolves, then add the boiling water and stir slowly until completely dissolved again

2. Add the corn syrup and stir again until dissolved

3. Mix in the bird seed, keep mixing until the seeds are evenly coated and leave to rest for a couple minutes

4. Spoon the seed mixture into the cookie cutters until they are about half filled and use parchment paper to press the seeds firmly into the molds. Fill the cookie cutters to the top and press down again

5. To make a hole for the string, push the straw into the birdseed making sure to leave lots of room between the straw hole and the edge

6. Put your ornaments into the fridge overnight to set, and to remove gently push the edges until it falls out. Take out the straws and insert your string for hanging

7. Done! Now you can hang your ornaments outside and watch the birds enjoy their delicious winter treat!

From:

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/how-to-make-birdseed-feeder-ornaments-with-gelatin/

You will need:

· Bowls/dishes to make the ice

· Large tray with sides

· Salt

· Liquid watercolours or food colouring

· Droppers or a spoon


Instructions:

1. Make the ice. For more fun and experimentation, create different sizes of ice using different shaped/sized bowls or winter themed ice trays

2. Set up your melting station by placing your ice shapes in a large tray with raised sides

3. Add salt- more salt will cause the ice to melt faster so start with a little bit and add more as desired

4. Add colours to your melting ice! The colours are not only beautiful but emphasize the tunnels/cracks forming in the ice as it melts from the salt














From:

https://artfulparent.com/melting-ice-science-experiment-with-salt-liquid-watercolors/

3 Strategies Your Baby Uses to Solve the Speech Segmentation Problem

By: Ashley Avarino


What is the Speech Segmentation Problem?


When you listen to people talk, you may have the impression that each word they speak is separated by a brief silence. But, in fact, natural speech is a continuous flow of sounds, with almost no pauses occurring between words! When we listen to our own language, our brain “inserts” pauses between the words that we pull out of the speech stream. But inserting pauses is not something that our brain does automatically. This becomes more obvious if you listen to an unfamiliar language – it’s almost impossible to tell how many words are being spoken, or where they start and end. So, we need to learn word boundaries before our brain can insert pauses where they belong! The fact that speech is continuous poses a problem for our smallest language learners: How do infants begin to find the boundaries between words? In this article we discuss three strategies that your infant uses to pull words out of the speech stream!

Strategy 1: Tracking What Sounds “Go Together”

Infants can track sound patterns to help them find where a word starts and ends. Sounds that “go together” most often across sentences also tend to be the sounds that create words. For example, the word babyincludes the sounds ba and by – each time the word baby is heard, the sounds ba precede the sounds by. After listening to many sentences in the speech around them that have these sounds, infants can track that they “go together” and pull them out of the speech stream as the word baby.

Strategy 2: The Way Words Sound

Infants also use prosody to find word boundaries. Prosody is the intonation and rhythm of a language, and one aspect of prosody is the patterning of syllable stress in words. In some languages (e.g., English) the first syllable of a word is usually emphasized, while in other languages (e.g., French) the second syllable is more likely to be emphasized. Take a look at the sound waveforms below. Both are representations of the same word being spoken, Pizza. But, the first syllable is emphasized in the waveform on the left, while the second syllable is emphasized in the waveform on the right!

How do infants use syllable stress to segment words? Let’s say you are an English-learning infant. If you heard a syllable that was emphasized, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that it’s the beginning of a word. The opposite would be true if you were a French-speaking infant: you would assume the emphasized syllable is the end of a word!

Strategy 3: Anchoring to Familiar Words

A third strategy that your infant uses to segment words from the speech stream is anchoring to familiar words. Let’s say that your infant’s name is Ashley, and that Ashley knows their name. When Ashley hears the sentence “Look, Ashley’s bike!”, they can infer two things: first, that the string of sounds “look” must belong to a word that came before their name, and second, that the string of sounds “bike” must belong to a word that came after their name. How do they infer this? They infer this by using the beginning and end sounds of their name as markers for the word boundaries; they know that Ashley is a word, so whatever comes before it should belong to a different word, and whatever comes after it should belong to yet another word.

Which Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?


Although these strategies give us some insight into how infants segment speech, we are left with another question: Which one comes first? It would seem as though infants would need a bit of knowledge about words to use some of these strategies. For example, to use familiar words as anchors they would need to already know some words. And, to use the stress pattern of words, they would need to know many wordsthat use this stress pattern. Developmental Psychologists think that infants are first learning some words in isolation (e.g., their name, “mama”, “dada”, “bottle”, “teddy”, etc.) and then use these words to build up to these other strategies. Additionally, tracking what sounds “go together” may not necessarily require any prior knowledge of words – without knowing any words in a speech stream, infants can pick out the sounds that most likely compose a single word based on how often those sounds occur together! If you pause and think about it, that’s pretty amazing.


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


Saffran, J. R., Aslin, R. N., & Newport, E. L. (1996). Statistical learning by 8-month-old infants. Science, 274(5294), 1926-1928.

https://doi.org/10.1126/science.274.5294.1926

Jusczyk, P. W., Houston, D. M., & Newsome, M. (1999). The beginnings of word segmentation in English-learning infants. Cognitive

psychology, 39(3-4), 159-207. https://doi.org/10.1006/cogp.1999.0716

Thiessen, E. D., & Saffran, J. R. (2003). When cues collide: use of stress and statistical cues to word boundaries by 7-to 9-month-old

infants. Developmental psychology, 39(4), 706. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.39.4.706

Bortfeld, H., Morgan, J. L., Golinkoff, R. M., & Rathbun, K. (2005). Mommy and me: Familiar names help launch babies into speech-

stream segmentation. Psychological science, 16(4), 298-304. https://doi.org/10.1111%2Fj.0956-7976.2005.01531.x

Perceiving is believing? Children learn from confident people even when it conflicts with their own perceptions

By: Jessica Huang


We learn from other people all the time, so how do we decide whether someone is a credible source of information? Well, we often take someone’s confidence as a sign that they know what they’re talking about.

Vikram Jaswal and Lauren Malone conducted a study that explored whether young children use cues to a speaker’s confidence to decide whether someone is credible. Someone’s level of confidence can be expressed through both verbal cues (like saying “I know” vs. “I think”) or non-verbal cues, such as furrowed brows and a tilted head. Jaswal and Malone wanted to know whether children relied on a speaker’s confidence to decide whether to learn something that conflicted with the child’s own perceptions.

To do this, the researchers created hybrid objects, which were computer generated using various common objects. For example, there was a key-like item, which had features of both a spoon and a key, but ultimately looked more like a key.

Using the key-like item as an example, 3-year-old children were first shown a picture of a car and a typical key. Using the picture of the typical key, the experimenter demonstrated that the key was used to start the car. Children were also shown a picture of a bowl and a typical spoon. Again, the experimenter used the picture of the typical spoon to demonstrate that it was used for eating cereal out of the bowl. Finally, children were shown the key-like object. The experimenter then labelled it as a spoon, which was inconsistent with its appearance. Some children heard the experimenter label the item confidently by saying, “This is a spoon.” Other children heard the experimenter sound uncertain by saying “I think this a spoon” while furrowing their brows. Children were then asked whether the key-like item was used to start the car or to eat cereal out of the bowl.

When children in the confident condition heard that the key-like item was a spoon, they were likely to agree with the experimenter and indicate that it would be used to eat cereal from the bowl. However, when the experimenter had been uncertain, children were more likely to indicate that the key-like item would be used to start the car. In other words, they were more skeptical of the label that was provided by the uncertain experimenter, and thus, were more likely to ignore it and make their decision about the object’s function based on its appearance.

Children learn a great deal about the world from what other people tell them. However, this study shows that they don’t take everything people tell them at face value, especially when it conflicts with what they can perceive directly themselves! Although children are willing to rely on a confident adult’s information even when it conflicts with an object’s appearance, they are not willing to rely on a less confident adult in this situation. Studies like this show us that children are balancing many different factors during learning, such as a speaker’s confidence and their own guesses about what something is!

Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Jaswal, V.K., & Malone, L.S. (2007). Turning Believers into Skeptics: 3-Year-Olds’ Sensitivity to Cues to Speaker Credibility. Journal of Cognition and Development, 8(3), 263-283.

https://doi.org/10.1080/15248370701446392


Halloween Science Experiments

By: Emily Stonehouse

Bubbling Halloween Slime

Halloween Melting Hands

Gelatin Brain

You will need:

· 1/2 cup Elmer’s Washable White School Glue

· 1 tbs Saline Solution

· 2 tbs Baking Soda

· 1/4 cup White Vinegar

· Food Coloring (green or any Halloween colors you want!)

· Small Cauldron or Container (for mixing slime)

· Small Cup (for mixing vinegar and saline)

· Cookie or Craft Tray

· Creepy Crawlies or Halloween items of your choice


Instructions:

1. Put your container onto a large cookie/craft tray. Start by combining the glue and baking soda in your chosen container. You will notice that as you stir the baking soda into the glue it thickens! This is really the point of adding baking soda to saline solution slime recipes.

2. Go ahead and get witch-y! Throw in all sorts of creepy crawlies!

3. Add food colouring of choice (green, purple, and orange are great for Halloween)

4. In another small container, mix the vinegar and the saline solution.

5. Pour vinegar/saline mixture into the glue mixture and start stirring! You will notice the mixture begin to bubble and eventually erupt everywhere! This is the reason for the tray!

6. Continue to stir until the eruption is complete. You will notice that it gets harder and harder to stir because you are mixing your slime as well!

7. Once you have stirred as much as possible, reach in and pull out your slime! It will be a bit messy at first but this slime is wonderful! All you need to do is knead it a bit.


It should not be sticky on the hands either! But if after kneading your slime it still feels sticky, you can add a drop or two of saline to it and continue to knead. Don’t add too much or you will end up with a rubbery slime!

Image from:

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/bubbling-halloween-slime/

You will need:

· Disposable Gloves

· Water

· Rubber Bands

· Food Coloring

· Glitter

· Halloween Items (spiders, eyeballs, and other plastic treasures)

Instructions:

1. Choose a handful of the Halloween items you want to use

2. Put the Halloween items and a few drops of food colouring into one of the disposable gloves

3. Fill the glove with water, leaving enough room so you can tie off the end with an elastic

4. Lay your hands flat on a tray and place in the freezer overnight

5. Once frozen, remove the hands and put them in a large bowl (to reduce mess), then peel off the glove

6. Ta-Da! Now you have fun Halloween hands ready to play with!

Image from:

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/halloween-melting-ice-experiment/

You will need:

· Gelatin or Jello Packs {we choose gelatin for the color but you could also use red jello}

· Water

· Pot {boil water with adult supervision}

· spoon

· Heart or brain Molds (dollar store or Amazon)

· Pipette, Skewer, Plastic Butter Knife {for dissecting and exploring}

· Food Coloring Mixed in Water


Instructions:

1. Follow the directions on the package of the gelatin or jello mix using the mold of your choice

2. Use pipette/instrument of choice to add food colouring to mold

3. Voila! You have your very own gelatin science experiment where you can talk about chemistry, the changing of liquids to semi solids/solids, and if you used brain/heart molds, organs!


Image from:

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/gross-creepy-gelatin-heart-halloween-science-experiment/

How do children choose who to learn from?

By: Shaneene Heupel


Children are constantly faced with new information – new people, new words, new objects – and therefore are constantly learning. In fact, their main job in the first few years of life is to learn. But how do they learn? Some information is learned through their own observations and experiences, however, much of it is learned from other people. But people have varying levels of knowledge, they make mistakes, they may be misinformed, or they might just be deceptive. So, how does a child determine when and if a speaker is sharing information that is useful to them? Research suggests that children use certain cues to help them determine whether a speaker is likely to have good information. One such cue is a speaker’s past behaviour – how accurate they have been in the past, how confident they appear, and whether they have demonstrated expertise in a given topic.

In the past, this person has been correct about the information they have told me – should I trust them when learning new information? For adults, the answer is yes. But do children come to the same conclusion? Yes, they do! In fact, lots of research shows that children are very good at keeping track of someone’s past accuracy and use that information to decide whether they can trust this person when learning about something new. One typical way to test this is by presenting children with two possible people to learn from. One person is always accurate, labeling objects like a cat, a book, and a banana correctly. Another person is always inaccurate, giving these objects the wrong labels (perhaps saying cow, door, and flower). Children are then presented with an object they have never seen before and are asked which of the speakers they want to learn the name of the new object from. Children are much more likely to choose the previously accurate individual. In fact, even if both people were mostly accurate, children can keep track of how often each person was accurate, and they prefer to learn from the one who was accurate more often.

This speaker doesn’t seem to know much – should I choose to learn new information from them? For adults, the answer to this is “probably not”. It turns out that children feel the same way! Even if two people both provide the right answers about familiar things, if one person always says things like “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” or “I think” before they answer, then children will prefer to learn new information from the other person.

I want to learn about cars. This person has shown me that they know a lot about cars. Should I ask them to teach me new things about cars? For adults the answer is clear – of course we should ask the car expert for car information. Do children choose who to learn from someone based on their expertise in a given topic? Yes, they do! For example, when children need to learn about animals, they are more likely to ask an animal expert over an artifact expert. So even though both people are experts in something, children consider the domain of expertise when deciding what to learn from them.

So, children are careful learners! They weigh a number of factors to determine who might have the best information for them. The next time your child is learning something, see if you can notice the ways in which they are carefully evaluating what they are told!

Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Birch, S. A. J., Vauthier, S. A., & Bloom, P. (2008). Three- and four-year-olds spontaneously use others’ past performance to guide their

learning. Cognition, 107, 1018–1034.

Koenig, M. A., & Harris, P. (2005). Preschoolers mistrust ignorant and inaccurate speakers. Child Development, 76, 1261–1277.

Sabbagh, M. A. & Baldwin, D.A., (2001). Learning Words from Knowledgeable versus Ignorant Speakers: Links Between Preschoolers’

Theory of Mind and Semantic Development. Child Development 71:4, 1054-1070.

Lane, J. D., and Harris, P. L., (2015). The Roles of Intuition and Informants’ Expertise in Children’s Epistemic Trust. Child Development,

86(3): 919-926.


Moral development: Even your kids can do it!

By: Claudia Sehl


The ability to understand the difference between right and wrong is known as morality. Morality is what guides us to make ethical choices and to identify when others are acting badly. Although it may seem like a high-level ability, morality surprisingly emerges early on in development.

An American psychologist named Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg raised one of the first theories of moral development in 1958. He believed that people progress through three levels of moral reasoning (preconventional, conventional, and postconventional), with each level consisting of two stages. The first two stages, known as the preconventional stages, correspond to moral development in childhood. At these stages, children try to be well-behaved to avoid punishment. For instance, preschoolers learn not to hit other children because they do not want to get in trouble. Preschoolers are also well-behaved to receive rewards for moral behavior, such as praise or treats for sharing with others. So, from early on in development, children do not automatically know what the right thing is to do. Instead, they rely on feedback from parents and caretakers to guide their behavior.

By late-childhood and adolescence, people start to follow moral conventions, not just for the sake of being rewarded and avoiding punishment. During these conventional stages, adolescents try to live up to societal expectations by being a ‘good’ person. In doing so, they begin to recognize that their behaviour will have social benefits, like friendships. For example, teens realize that it is good to be kind to others, as others will reciprocate this same kindness to them. Additionally, teens start to understand the importance of following fixed rules and laws.

Finally, in the postconventional stages, adults recognize their own personal moral values. They also realize that there may be exceptions to legal rules if moral rights are violated. For instance, stealing necessities such as food and medicine may be considered acceptable in desperate situations. Furthermore, adults at this stage can engage in abstract moral reasoning about ethical principles, such as preserving human life and behaving with integrity. According to Kohlberg, most adults remained at the conventional stages and few adults moved onto the post-conventional stages of moral reasoning.

Kohlberg’s work is considered foundational to our understanding of moral development, but some recent research suggests that some stages may occur much earlier than he originally thought. In one experiment, 2.5-year-olds offered their own blanket to a shivering experimenter. Altruistic behaviors such as these suggest that young children are empathetic to others’ distress[1]. In another study, experimenters asked young children if it would be okay to break rules, such as hurting or stealing from others. Four-year-olds knew that it is wrong to do these things, even if parents and teachers said it was okay[2]. Findings like these suggest that our understanding of morality may begin earlier in development than what was previously thought!

Next time you are playing with your child, reflect on these stages of moral development. Can you observe which stage they might be at? What early signs of moral development do you notice?


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


[1] Svetlova, M., Nichols, S. R., & Brownell, C. A. (2010). Toddlers’ prosocial behavior: From instrumental to empathic to altruistic helping. Child development, 81(6), 1814-1827.

[2] Smetana, J. G., Rote, W. M., Jambon, M., TasopoulosChan, M., Villalobos, M., & Comer, J. (2012). Developmental changes and individual differences in young children’s moral judgments. Child development, 83(2), 683-696.

Is Language Really Arbitrary?

By: Erin Kim

Language has many properties that make it special. One of these is something called arbitrariness, which is the fact that there is no intrinsic relationship between a word’s form (the way it sounds) and its meaning. For example, there is nothing about the sound of the word “dog” that indicates it is referring to a furry, four-legged, canine animal. This is the reason why the same animal can be called something completely different (“chien”) in French! With the exception of a few words that sound like what they refer to (e.g. “meow”, “buzz”, “boom”), the words of a language are typically thought to be arbitrary in this way.

But not so fast! Is everything else really arbitrary? Try this famous experiment out for yourself!

One of the two figures below is a “bouba”, and the other is a “kiki”. Which is which?

If you guessed that shape A is the “bouba” and shape B is the “kiki”, your intuitions are in line with about 95% of people who also participated in this experiment. But, if language is arbitrary, how is it that there is such consistency in how people make associations between these words and figures? The reason behind this reliable pattern is thought to lie in how visual features of the figures align with features of how sounds are produced. For instance, the sharp points in shape B may be associated with the sharper sounding inflections and movements of the tongue required to produce the word “kiki”. On the other hand, the roundness of shape A might resemble the rounded formation of our mouths when producing the word “bouba”. These types of findings suggest that our brains do make links between the way things sound and what they mean!

So, what does this say about the arbitrariness of language? Based on this experiment, it seems as though the form of a word has the potential to carry valuable information about its meaning after all. Now people are actively looking at the vocabularies of real languages to see whether there are patterns in the words we used based on these types of sound-meaning links! It could be that our vocabularies are a mix of fully arbitrary words and words that have tighter (non-arbitrary) relationships between sound and meaning. And some people have even argued that it is the non-arbitrary words that got our ancestors started with language in the first place! This kiki/bouba effect will surely lead to many more explorations into this fascinating property of language!

Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Ramachandran, V. S., & Hubbard, E. M. (2001). Synaesthesia - a window into perception, thought and language. Journal of consciousness

studies, 8(12), 3-34.

Crafts You Can Do at Home!

Easy, Fun Activities Using Materials You Have at Home!

By: Terryn Kim & Mo Pabla


As September is approaching, so is the Back-To-School and Fall season! To celebrate these seasons, we compiled a few fun activities you can do at home.

We hope you enjoyed making these as much as we did! If you try any of these activities, please share your results with us on Facebook or Instagram (@uwcoral) so we can see them!

Pinecone Apple Tree

Supplies:

  • pinecones

  • green yarn

  • red, yellow, orange, green pom poms

  • glue

  • scissors

  • wooden spool if desired


Instructions:

  1. Wrap your green yarn around your pinecone. For smaller pinecones, regular worsted 3 weight yarn works best. For larger pinecones, a chunky yarn will work best.

  2. Cut the yarn when done wrappning and tuck it in. If worried about the yarn coming undone, use a small dab of glue to glue it onto the pinecone.

  3. Glue pom poms around the pinecone to represent your apples.

  4. Optional: if you would like your tree to also have a trunk, glue a wooden spool on the bottom of the pinecone. Hot glue works best for this.

  5. Voila! An apple tree to welcome the oncoming fall season.

Image From: https://buggyandbuddy.com/pinecone-apple-tree-craft/

Elephant Toothpaste

Supplies:

  • 16oz plastic pop bottle

  • 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide (6% solution)

  • 1 packet dry yeast

  • 1 tbsp liquid dish soap

  • 3 tbsp warm water

  • food colouring

  • small cup

  • safety goggles

Instructions:

  1. Put on your safety goggles!

  2. Add the hydrogen peroxide into the bottle.

  3. Add 8 drops of food colouring of your choice followed by the dish soap.

  4. Mix the bottle slowly by swirling it around.

  5. In the small cup, combine the dry yeast with the warm water, mixing it for 30 seconds.

  6. Finally, pour the yeast-water mixture into the bottle and watch the foam form!

Image From: https://www.scholastic.com/parents/kids-activities-and-printables/activities-for-kids/math-and-science-ideas/home-science-experiments-elephants-toothpaste.html

Leaf Imprints

Supplies:

  • leaves

  • 1 cup salt

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1 cup water

  • markers or paint

Instructions:

  1. Mix together your salt and flour. Slowly add water a little at a time and mix until you have a dough-like consistency and it's not too sticky.

  2. Roll out the dough to about 1cm of thickness and cut into smaller portions.

  3. Imprint your leaves onto the dough by pushing them into the smaller pieces. Leaves with raised veins work best for imprints.

  4. Pop your imprints into the oven on a tray at 120 degrees celsius for about 2-3 hours.

  5. Once cooled, you can decorate your imprints using whatever you like! Markers, paint, and glitter work well.


Image From:

https://theimaginationtree.com/coloured-salt-dough-leaf-impressions/

2021 Newsletter

newsletter.pdf

Age-Appropriate Chores that Your Toddler Can Do

By: Venus Ho


Did you know that children as young as 2 years old can help out with chores? When toddlers start helping out with chores at an early age, they learn to view themselves as people who contribute and help others, which can promote the development of prosocial skills. Additionally, engaging in chores can be an activity that allows your toddler to both let out their energy and to practice their motor skills.

How do you know what chores are age-appropriate for you child? The key is to look at your child’s gross and fine motor skills and determine what tasks may be achievable for them. However, it is important to keep in mind that toddlers will be sloppier and take longer with the tasks since they are still learning. Therefore, it’s important to manage your expectations and treat chores as a fun, learning opportunity for your child! Below, we list some examples of chores that your toddler may enjoy assisting you with:

1. Putting away toys after playtime

After playtime, you can encourage your child to put the toys back where they belong. This activity can also be a fun way that your toddler can practice their sorting skills! For example, you can teach them where toy cars vs. toy animals are supposed to go and have them sort them into their respective bins.

2. Helping out with laundry

We all know that toddlers love to throw, pull, and push things! By having them assist with laundry, they can engage in these actions while helping out. Some tasks that your toddler can do are: putting dirty clothes in the laundry bin, throwing clothes into the washer or dryer, taking clothes out of the washer or dryer, folding small items like socks or washcloths.

3. Taking care of the family pet

Teaching your toddler how they can take care of a pet can help them learn to respect other living things! Some age-appropriate tasks that a toddler can do include refilling the food and water bowls (after you have measured the correct amount) and brushing the pet’s fur.

4. Cleaning

A fun activity you can do is give you toddler a sock and tell them to slip it over their hand. Encourage them to slide their sock-covered hand over a dusty surface to help out with cleaning! Toddlers may also enjoy wiping up small (kid-friendly) spills like juice or milk. Give them a small cloth and show them how they can wipe down the spill!

5. Making the bed

This activity will be too difficult for your toddler to complete on your own, but together, you and your toddler can work together to make the bed! When making the bed together, guide your toddler step-by-step and encourage them to straighten one side of the bed.

One thing to remember is that your toddler will not be completing these tasks perfectly and that’s okay! It’s important that you do not go back and immediately correct their work because this may send them the message that their help is not good enough. By not redoing their work, your toddler will take pride in helping you with chores and learn that they can make a difference!

Do Children Prefer to Learn from Adults or Other Children?

By: Jessica Huang


Children are like sponges – they readily soak up the information that’s around them! But how do children decide who to “soak up” this information from? Adults seem like the obvious choice, but what about their peers? Are there conditions under which children think other children know more about a topic than an adult?

Previous studies have demonstrated that children generally consider adults to be more knowledgeable than their peers. This makes sense because, in general, adults do have more information. However, children don’t always prefer to learn information from adults! A study by Vikram Jaswal and Leslie Neely found that 3- and 4-year-old children prefer to learn information from a child, rather than an adult, when it is clear that the adult is unreliable. In this study, children saw an adult provide incorrect labels for common objects, (for example, labelling a shoe a “telephone”) and a child provide correct labels for those objects. Then, children saw a new object and heard the adult and child informants provide two different labels for it. Children participating in the study were more likely to say that the previously accurate child was right about the new object’s label. So, children are more likely to believe their peers if they have direct evidence that adults don’t know what they’re talking about! When else might they endorse their peers over adults?


Mieke VanderBorght and Vikram Jaswal conducted a follow-up study investigating if children would trust other children to know more about particular topics than adults. 3-to-5-year-old children chose who would be better to learn from when the topic was either children’s toys or the nutritional value of food. It was expected that children would think that other children would know more about the toys, whereas adults would know more about the nutritional value of food.


Participants were first introduced to a child and an adult. Then they saw different toys or food items. For each toy, children were asked, “Who would know what this toy does?” and for each food item they were asked, “Who would know why this food is good for you?” Children were instructed to choose between the child or the adult. As predicted, children across all age groups indicated that the child would know more about the toys, and the adult would know more about the food.


They also looked at situational factors – what if the toy was the adult’s favourite toy and the child had never seen it before? Or what if the food was the child’s favourite food and the adult had never seen it before? In these cases, most children indicated that the child would know more about their favourite food, and the adult would know more about their favourite toy. These findings demonstrate that while children generally believe there are particular categories that a child might know more about (like toys), they flexibly use other information, such as an individual’s experience with an item, to decide whether a particular individual has the information they need. When told that the child knew nothing about the toy, children as young as 3 years old were able to take this into consideration and make the judgement that the adult would be more knowledgeable about this specific toy, due to their experience with it.


More work remains to be done to see what other factors might influence children’s beliefs about who has the most knowledge. But, importantly, this research shows that children are selective sponges – they consider different factors before soaking up information!


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


Jaswal, V.K., & Neely, L.A. (2006). Adults Don't Always Know Best: Preschoolers Use Past Reliability over Age When Learning New Words. Psychological Science, 17(9), 757-758. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40064449


VanderBorght, M., & Jaswal, V.K. (2009). Who Knows Best? Preschoolers Sometimes Prefer Child Informants over Adult Informants. Infant and Child Development, 18, 61-71.

https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.591

Learning, Having, Trying: Children Select Objects to Achieve Their Goals.

By: Claudia Sehl, MASc

Some theories of curiosity suggest that children prefer to learn about novel objects over familiar ones, as they provide a greater opportunity for learning. For instance, imagine there is a lionfish and a goldfish at a zoo. Children may prefer to learn about a lionfish instead of a goldfish, since they know little about lionfish. However, children may not always prefer novel things. For instance, if children were choosing a pet at a store, they may prefer the goldfish over the lionfish, as it is familiar to them. This example suggests that preferences for novel things depend on the goal to learn or have them, which is what we explored in two experiments.

In one experiment, we showed 4- to 7-year-olds pairs of objects, such as umbrellas, chairs, cups, and lamps. One object in each pair looked typical, and the other looked atypical (e.g., a four-legged chair and a ten-legged chair; a normal umbrella and one with two canopies). Then, we asked children either which item they would rather have, or which item they would rather learn about. We found that 4-year-olds wanted to have and learn about the items equally, but children aged 5-7-years-old wanted to have the typical items and learn about the atypical items. Based on these findings, we expected that children avoided having novel objects as they posed greater risk than familiar ones. Novel objects, such as the ten-legged chair, could be cumbersome, break easily, or look strange amongst other furniture.

In our next experiment, we explored which objects 4- to 6-year-olds preferred to try using. This judgment is particularly interesting, as trying out an object can serve different goals. Trying out an object could be like having it because it allows children the chance to use it. So, children may prefer trying familiar objects. However, trying objects could also serve as an opportunity for children to learn about them. If this is the case, children may prefer to try novel objects. Our results showed that although children again wanted to have familiar objects, they had no preferences for which objects they wanted to try using. Across these two experiments, we found that young children selectively seek novel or familiar objects in order to fulfill their goals of learning about or acquiring resources.


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Sehl, C. G., Friedman, O., & Denison, S. (2021). Children’s novelty preferences depend on information-seeking goals. In T. Fitch, C. Lamm, H. Leder, & T Tessmar-Raible (Eds.), Proceedings of the 43rdAnnual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 466-471). Cognitive Science Society. https://escholarship.org/content/qt7nr7n7c1/qt7nr7n7c1.pdf


How Can You Foster Children's Learning?

By: Julianna Lu


From birth, children are active participants in the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Through observation, experimentation and participation with other children and adults, children build their understanding of the world. Nevertheless, there are ways in which parents and other caregivers can help children learn more efficiently. One effective teaching method is a concept known as social scaffolding. Based on Vygotsky’s Social Learning Theory, social scaffolding is a technique in which a more competent individual provides a temporary framework to support children’s ability to build on their prior knowledge. This framework enables children to think at higher levels than they could manage on their own. As the name suggests, it functions similarly to the scaffolding used during construction; it provides support during the building, maintenance, and repair of structures.

There are three characteristics of social scaffolding: it is contingent, temporary, and involves a transfer of responsibility. Contingency refers to the way the expert adjusts their level of support based on the learner’s current level of ability. It requires experts to make appropriate judgments about the needs and quality of assistance that would most benefit the learner. For example, when learning how to ride a bike for the first time, it would not be helpful to immediately take off the training wheels. Instead, it might be more appropriate to begin with teaching a child how to steer, pedal and stop with the training wheels.

Social scaffolds are also temporary. As the learner begins to gain competence, support can be reduced. For example, once the learner is comfortable with riding the bike, you can slowly remove the training wheels. The last characteristic is the transfer of responsibility. This occurs when the learner internalizes their new knowledge/skills and can apply their knowledge independently. For example, after learning how to ride a bike smoothly without training wheels, the learner takes control in advancing their skills: learning how to do different turns, stops, etc.

Thus, social scaffolding is an excellent teaching method. It breaks up learning into chucks that are catered to the learner’s current level of ability. By providing this structure, children can incrementally build on their prior knowledge and become experts themselves.

You can try this at home!

· Pick a goal-oriented activity (e.g., baking cookies)

· Create a temporary framework (e.g., Show them how to measure out the ingredients. You can support them at first by just having them choose the correct cup with you and watching you scoop and measure and letting them pour it in the bowl carefully.)

· Slowly reduce the level of support and provide the learner with a more active role (e.g., Once they are comfortable with pouring the measured ingredient in the bowl, let them try doing the measuring part.)

· During the activity you can pause, ask questions and review – This is an excellent way to check on their understanding and keep them engaged!

Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Alber, R. (2014, January 24). 6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/scaffolding-lessons-six-strategies-rebecca-alber

Sarikas, C. (2020, January 4). Vygotsky Scaffolding: What it is and How to Use it [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://blog.prepscholar.com/vygotsky-scaffolding-zone-of-proximal-development

Van de Pol, J., Volman, M., Oort, F., & Beishuizen, J. (2015). The effects of scaffolding in the classroom: support contingency and student independent working time in relation to student achievement, task effort and appreciation of support. Instructional Science, 43(5), 615-641.

How Parents Can Support Children's Learning During Play

By: Venus Ho


Children love to play since it’s fun and enjoyable. However, play can also be a rich learning opportunity for children since they can freely use their imagination, learn to problem-solve, and engage in hands-on experiences with their environment. During free play, children explore various tasks and activities without the guidance of an adult, which allow for self-expression and creativity. When children play together, they can also learn how to cooperate and share with others. However, despite the benefits of free play, researchers have noted the importance of scaffold play, which is play that is both child-directed and guided by an adult. During scaffold play, the adult can introduce new ideas and concepts to the child, which can help promote learning. Below, we will go over some strategies that adults can use to support children’s learning through play:


Ask questions that stimulate discussion and encourage thinking

Although this strategy seems straight-forward, it may actually be difficult to do since adults are used to instructing children on what to do, instead of asking questions and listening to children’s responses. Research has shown that it can be helpful to give children the opportunity to practice communication by asking questions related to their play. For instance, if children are building a house, adults can ask, “How are you going to build the house?” or “What rooms do you need inside the house?” to encourage extended thinking about the concept. Similarly, if a child is playing with a toy car, adults can ask, “Why do people use cars?” to encourage the child to think about the real-world application of the concept. By inquiring about children’s understanding of a concept, adults can identify gaps in their knowledge and provide more information about the concept if needed.


Giving enough time for children to answer questions

In addition to asking questions that encourage children to think, it is important for adults to give ample time for children to formulate their responses. Oftentimes, children may take longer to answer questions because they are thinking about their response and how to express it. This is important for adults to keep in mind because adults often follow up with another question or provide an answer to the question before the child has had enough time to answer. By giving children enough time to think about their responses, children are better able to practice their language skills.


Providing Feedback and Comments

Adults can also support children’s learning by providing comments on what children are doing. For instance, if adults ask, “What are you playing with?” and the child answers with the word “car”, adults can respond with “Oh, you are playing with a toy car.” This allows children to hear their response incorporated in a complete sentence, which can help with language development. Additionally, adults can provide definitions about concepts. For example, if a child is playing with a pencil, the adult can say, “You are playing with a pencil. Pencils are used for writing things.” This can enhance children’s knowledge about different concepts. Furthermore, adults can connect new concepts with background knowledge that the child already has. For example, if a child is playing with a train, the adult can bring up situations where the child has been previously exposed to trains, such as in a TV show or a book (“Is that train similar to the one we were reading about yesterday?”).


Therefore, adults can play an important role in children’s learning during play. By using these strategies, adults can support children’s learning by introducing new ideas and allowing children to practice their communication skills.

Resource: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10643-016-0827-5

I Can't See it, But it's Still There! Fostering Object Permanence in Children.

By: Venus Ho


One of the major developmental milestones that children attain is the understanding of object permanence. Although the concept sounds complex, object permanence is simply understanding that an object continues to exist even if it cannot be seen or heard. When babies are very young, they do not understand that an object still exists when they cannot sense it. It's literally "out of sight, out of mind"! During this phase, when a toy is covered with a blanket, your child may give up searching for it quickly because they do not understand that it still exists.

The concept of object permanence was originally developed by Jean Piaget, who proposed that the skill did not develop in children until they were 8 months old. However, research by Baillargeon and colleagues has now shown that babies can understand object permanence much earlier, even when they are just 5 months old! Below, we have outlined some activities for you and your child that can help foster the development of object permanence.

  1. Peekaboo

Peekaboo is one of the simplest and most popular games to play with your baby to foster object permanence. You can either hide your face behind your hands or anything that can cover your face (e.g., blanket, book) and then shout "Peekaboo" as you reveal your face again.

  1. Hiding Toys

This is another easy and fun activity you can do with your child. You can simply hide a toy under a blanket and then take it out again to reveal that it still exists. This activity can be even more fun if you have a toy that makes noises. When you cover the toy with the blanket, you can make sounds with the toy, showing your child that even though they cannot see it, the toy is still there!

  1. Hide-and-Seek with Toys

For babies that are starting to learn how to walk, you can hide toys around your home in places that your child can easily find them. After hiding the toys, you can ask your child to find them. To make it easier, you can give your child cues about where the toy is (e.g., "You're getting closer!"). This activity can show them that even though they cannot see their toy, it has not disappeared and can be found again. This activity is also great for promoting muscle development and motor coordination skills!

  1. Object Permanence Tubes

This final activity requires collecting tube-like materials, such as PVC pipes or the leftover cardboard tubes from paper towel rolls. You will also require a small round object, such as a ball, that can fit through the tube. Next, you can choose to tape the tube vertically to a wall or hold the tube yourself. Now, when you put a ball inside the top of the tube, it will fall out from the bottom of the tube. With this activity, your child will be learning that even though the ball cannot be seen inside the tube, it is still there! Children also love playing with gravity, so this activity will definitely be a favourite.

Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:


Baillargeon, R., Spelke, E. S., & Wasserman, S. (1985). Object permanence in five-month-old infants. Cognition, 20(3), 191-208. https://doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(85)90008-3


https://activeforlife.com/baby-object-permanence/


https://calgarypreschools.ca/blog/3+Simple+Games+to+Teach+Your+Child+About+Object+Permanence+/37

Science You Can Do at Home!

Easy, Fun Experiments Using Materials You Have at Home!

By: Olivia Halley & Emily Stonehouse, MA


Thanks for participating in our activities and contributing to our research! Now that you’re a Jr. Scientist, we’ve compiled some experiments you can do from home. These experiments use common household materials and are easy and fun for all ages. Work together to learn more about science!


We hope you enjoy these science experiments and learn something new! If you try any of these activities, please share your results with us on Facebook or Instagram (@uwcoral) so we can see them!

Coffee Ground Fossils

Supplies:

  • 1 cup of used coffee grounds

  • ½ cup of cold coffee

  • 1 cup of flour

  • ½ cup of salt

  • wax paper

  • mixing bowl

  • cookie cutters/objects to make impressions

    • string to hang your fossil if desired

Instructions:

  1. Brew a small amount of coffee and save the grounds. Let the coffee cool. Measure out the ingredients (this is a good opportunity to practice measuring, gross motor skills, talking about numbers).

  2. Mix together the coffee grounds, coffee, flour, and salt until well mixed (this is a good opportunity to talk about how different items mix together to form new materials).

  3. Knead the dough and flatten it on the wax paper (this is a great sensory activity).

  4. Use any items desired to cut out your “fossils” (cookie cutters, cans, knives, etc.) (this is a great opportunity to talk about shapes).

  5. Press desired items into the dough to make imprints (I.e., toys, seashells, create your own designs using toothpicks/knives). You can also make a small hole near the edge of the dough if you want to hang it later. (this is a great opportunity to talk about the items you’re creating fossils of/the designs you’re making)

  6. Leave to dry and harden overnight. Voila, you’ve made your own fossils!

Image From: https://craftsbyamanda.com/coffee-ground-fossils/


Sensory Tube

Supplies:

  • bottle/tube of choice

  • clear glue

  • food/liquid colouring

  • hot glue

  • fun items of choice (I.e., buttons, small toys, shells, sequins, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. Fill up bottle/tube with items of your choice, have fun! You can create themed tubes (I.e., shells, small toy fish, pieces of plastic seaweed/algae for an underwater theme) or use whatever fun items you want. (good opportunity to talk about the items used, what theme you want to use, where the items are from)

  2. Fill most of the bottle/tube with water, and then fill the rest with glue. The more glue you add, the slower the sensory tube items will move! (good opportunity to talk about how the water and glue mix together and change the “speed” of the sensory tube).

  3. Add a couple drops of food/liquid watercolour. Add as much or as little as desired to get the colour you like! (good opportunity to talk about how colours mix together, how adding less colour means it will be lighter and easier to see what’s inside)

  4. Screw on the lid/cap tightly. Have a grown-up hot glue the outside of the lid/cap where it connects to the bottle/tube to prevent it from leaking. And voila! You have your very own sensory tube.

Image From: https://www.ssww.com/blog/diy-sensory-bottles-for-kids/

Tornado in a Jar

Supplies:

  • 1 clear jar or container with a lid

  • 2 tablespoons dish soap

  • Water

  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Fill your jar about ¾ full with cold or room-temperature water.

  2. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to the jar.

  3. Add 2 tablespoons of dish soap to the jar. If you’re using a small jar, try less dish soap at first because if you use too much, your water will become very cloudy when you shake it, and the tornado will be hard to see. You can always add more later!

  4. Put the lid on the jar and make sure it is properly closed.

  5. Shake the jar in a circular motion around the circumference of the jar for about 5 seconds. Olivia found that small, fast circles seemed to produce the best tornadoes.

  6. Step back and observe! If your water is too cloudy during your first attempt, try emptying the jar and starting from step 2 again with less dish soap this time. If your water becomes cloudy after shaking it a few times, wait about 10 minutes for the water to clear and try again. Tornado too small? First, try shaking it harder. If that does not work, add a little more dish soap and try again.


Note: When testing this experiment, Olivia used a large pickle jar which produced large tornadoes, however, the size made it hard to shake properly. We suggest using a smaller jar if available because it would be easier for little ones to hold, as well as potentially using a hard plastic container since it is safer if the jar/container were to be knocked over or dropped.


Do you see what I'm saying? Infants and children look at your lips when you talk!

By: Ashley Avarino


We use the expression, “Do you see what I’m saying?” when we want to make sure someone understands us. But why would we ask if they can see what we’re saying, when spoken language consists of sounds? Although we might think of spoken language as something we only hear, there are actually visual elements of language, too. One of these is a speaker’s lip movements.


Looking at someone’s mouth can give us information about the sounds they are making, and in some cases, this helps us understand what they’re saying. You have probably experienced this yourself if you have ever struggled to hear someone in a loud, crowded room – it becomes easier to hear what they’re saying when you look at their mouth.


Is this something that only adults do? Or does your child also use lip movements to help them understand what someone is saying? Keep reading to find out!


Research by David Lewkowicz and colleagues suggests that infants begin to look at a speaker’s mouth during their first year of life. These researchers had infants aged 4-months to 12-months watch a video of an adult speaking English. While the infants were watching the video, the researchers tracked their eye movements to see what part of the adult’s face they were looking at. They found that infants aged 4-6-months looked more at the adult’s eyes, but infants aged 8-12-months looked more at the adult’s mouth. This is neat, because it’s between the ages of 8-12-months that infants learn which sounds are important in their native language! This suggests that infants pay attention to as much information as they can, including lip movements, during this process.


Older children also look at the mouth of someone talking to them. Elizabeth Morin-Lessard and her colleagues investigated looking to the mouth in infants aged 5-months to 14-months, toddlers aged 2-3 years, and children aged 4-5 years. They found that the only age group that did not prefer to look at the mouth while watching an adult talk was 5-month-olds. So, with the exception of the littlest among us, language learners spend a lot of time looking at their conversation partner’s mouth!


You may be wondering what happens when we can’t see someone’s mouth, for example, when they are wearing a mask. Masks are important for keeping us safe during the pandemic, but they block access to a speaker’s lip movements. Does mask-wearing influence language development?


The short answer to this question is: don’t worry! While the above research demonstrates that infants and children look at the mouth when an individual is talking, looking to the mouth is not necessary for language development. Children who cannot see the mouths of those they are talking to (e.g., children who are blind, or children in cultures where face coverings are common) do not experience any delays in their language development. Why not? Because the most important language cue is speech! And, language learners make use of many other linguistic cues, with lip movements being just one! For example, infants and children also pay attention to where someone is looking as they talk, and this can help them learn the meaning of words. (Stay tuned for our next language blog post, where we discuss the top 5 cues your child uses while learning language).


It’s also important to remember that infants and young children receive most of their language input from primary caregivers. Many studies have shown that this is the most important language input for their language development. Your child will have plenty of opportunity to pay attention to your lip movements when you are home without a mask, to give them a little language boost!

Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Lewkowicz, D. J., & Hansen-Tift, A. M. (2012). Infants deploy selective attention to the mouth of a talking face when learning speech.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(5), 1431-1436. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1114783109

Morin-Lessard, E., Poulin-Dubois, D., Segalowitz, N., & Byers-Heinlein, K. (2019). Selective attention to the mouth of talking faces in

monolinguals and bilinguals aged 5 months to 5 years. Developmental psychology, 55(8), 1640–1655.

https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000750

It’s broke, but can I fix it? Children make exceptions to ownership rights when it benefits the owner.

By: Emily Stonehouse, MA


Typically, we are not allowed to use or modify other people’s property without their consent in order to protect their rights as owners. However, an interesting case arises when someone improves another’s property because this does not hinder the owner’s rights; in fact, it will usually benefit them, such as fixing their broken property. In a few studies, we examined what young children thought about such actions. We showed children two girls at a park, one of whom owned a broken hula. This girl was shown to go home, then we asked children several questions about what they thought of the other girl performing certain actions on the broken hula hoop. We found that 4- to 6-year-olds thought it was more acceptable to fix and replace the broken hula hoop than it was to look at, move, or even stand near it, regardless of whether the owner was a friend or stranger!


Next, we investigated whether the type of improvement, and the owner’s desires, would influence children’s acceptability judgments. We showed 4- to 6-year-olds a scenario where an owner had a mailbox that was either broken, or was a different colour from what the owner wanted. We then asked about the acceptability of a non-owner either fixing it (objective improvement), or painting it the owner’s desired colour (subjective improvement). We found that children judged it acceptable for the non-owner to fix the broken mailbox, replicating our previous work. However, children judged it unacceptable for the non-owner to paint the mailbox the owner’s preferred colour, even though it fulfilled their desires. This suggests that young children don’t consider all types of improvements in the same way, and that they make exceptions to ownership rights when actions involve objective, but not subjective, improvements.


Interested in the original research? Check out the cited articles below:

Stonehouse, E. E., & Friedman, O. (2021). Unsolicited but acceptable: Non-owners can access property if the owner benefits. Journal of

Experimental Psychology: General, 150(1), 135–144. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000877

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