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!
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. Cristina 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:
To find out more, visit the labs’ websites: