Language Development Lab and Childhood Cognition and Learning

Whoa, that’s a big title….don’t let it scare you! These two laboratories at the University of Ottawa are welcoming and fun environments, dedicated to the study of language learning and child psychology.

I had a chance to check out the labs with both of my daughters – the Language Development Lab accepts infants ages 4 months to 24 months, and the Childhood Cognition and Learning Laboratory studies 3 to 5 year-olds. As a researcher myself, I believe strongly in participating in research whenever I can!

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So how does it work?

We arrived at the University of Ottawa on a weekday morning, and were greeted in the parking lot by Caitlin, the lab coordinator. Parking is covered, so you don’t need to worry about that! Caitlin showed us upstairs to the waiting room, where my girls dove right in to play with the toys they keep stocked for busy little people.

I got a tour of both labs (in the same building), and met with Dr. Christine Atance and Dr. Christopher Fennell who head up the laboratories. Then we got started!

My 5 year-old was led into a separate room, and I was able to watch her on a monitor with headphones. She was unsure at first, so we spent a couple of minutes showing her that Mommy would be watching her on TV. The activities consisted of a series of games that studied her understanding of self continuity (basically, does she get that there is a “future self” and is she able to save for that self?) You’ll find yourself giggling at your child’s responses!

In the language lab, I was able to do the experiment with my youngest daughter by holding her on my lap. It only took about 6 minutes (maximum is 10), and objects were presented on a big screen with words playing on a speaker. A video records your child’s reactions to the pictures and words.

The director let me know that they’re really interested in studying infants who are learning language in bilingual homes. So if you speak two languages with your child, please consider signing up top participate!

What do I get out of it?

How about a big pat on the back for contributing to our knowledge of child psychology and language development? :)

Seriously, though, you’ll have a chance to observe your child’s understanding of some really important concepts, and an opportunity to participate in future research.

What do my kids get out of it?

It’s a really fun outing! They get to play with the toys in the waiting room, and my girls really enjoyed doing the studies. They were also gifted some great swag: a colouring book with crayons, special colouring paper, a t-shirt and a book.

The entire morning took about 2 hours (1.5 hours in the lab, and then tack on extra time for wrangling your kids!) If you’re only bringing one child, this would obviously be shorter. They also loved stopping at the coffee shop downstairs to get an almond croissant and take a peek at a living wall that’s been constructed in the new part of the building:

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To find out more, visit the labs’ websites:

Childhood Cognition and Learning Laboratory

Language Development Laboratory

Also give them a follow on Facebook, here and here!

Santa Letter Writing Program

Do your kids write a letter to Santa or are they like mine and cut up the toy catalogs and say they want everything? This year, as part of our 25 activities in December, I’m going to help my 3- and 5-year old write a letter to Santa. It’ll help focus them and hopefully show them they can WANT everything but they certainly can’t HAVE everything!

We’ll be using the templates from Canada Post (on their website HERE) so that we include some info about the kids and not just a list of things they want.

Over 6000 elves are working away, answering every letter received before December 16th, in more than 30 languages… incredible! Watch the video to see more:

Some things to remember:

  • include your mailing address so your child will get a letter back
  • mail by December 16th
  • you don’t need a stamp!

Santa’s address:
SANTA CLAUS
NORTH POLE H0H 0H0
CANADA

Thank you to Canada Post for this wonderful program to keep the magic alive. Will your child be writing to Santa?

Real or Fake: The Lowdown on Christmas Trees

I grew up in a family that always had a real Christmas tree. Every year we’d head over to the local Christmas tree lot (and I think we occasionally cut it down ourselves), and picked out the finest looking tree to fit in our low-ceiling family room. We also purchased that horrible tinsel stuff, and burned real logs in our fire place :)

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I’ve never understood the need for plastic trees, but I recently heard that a plastic tree might be more environmentally friendly than chopping one down. Instead of packing away the saw, I decided to do some research to see whether this was true. Where better to find out about the green-ness of your tree than the David Suzuki website!

This article compares real Christmas trees with plastic ones using research conducted by Ellio, a sustainability consulting firm in Quebec. The verdict? Real Christmas trees are a more sustainble option than their plastic counterparts unless you plan on using your fake tree for 20 years or more OR you have to drive really far to find a real tree.

So I breathed a sigh of relief, and we’ll plan our annual trip to a local Christmas tree farm to cut ours down (and let’s be honest, the hot chocolate at the end of the trip is the best part). For me, there’s nothing that beats that real tree smell! It even trumps the million pine needles that clog my vaccum every year!

Want to have even less of an impact on the environment? David Suzuki suggests purchasing a potted tree, an indoor pine, or starting your own Christmas tree farm. Also consider buying local, at a farm that minimizes pesticide use. Here’s a great list of local tree farms around Ottawa – give them a call to see what their practices are like!

And if you must purchase that fake tree (I get it, I get it – sometimes they ARE easier!) than make sure it’s a good one that you’ll use for a loooong time. And avoid toxic PVC plastic if you can.

So what do you think? Real or fake?