Hello everyone and welcome to CORAL’s blog! In this space, we will be sharing articles on current research in the fields of language, social, and cognitive development. We will give updates on our own research (through links to finished publications and short summaries), as well as post short articles about research being done across the globe – all written by members of our own team! We hope that you can learn a little bit more about child development and how different topics relate to your child and your own life. In addition, 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!

Fun Activities:

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 (@infantstudiesgroup) or Instagram (@uwcoral) so we can see them!

Coffee Ground Fossils


- 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


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!

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Sensory Tube


- bottle/tube of choice

- clear glue

- food/liquid colouring

- hot glue

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


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.

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Tornado in a Jar


-1 clear jar or container with a lid

-2 tablespoons dish soap


-1 teaspoon white vinegar


  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.

Language Development:

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!


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.

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.

From Our CORAL Research:

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.

Full Article: 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.

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