How critical are critical periods

[By: Aude Carteron]

‘Critical period’, ‘sensitive period’, ‘optimum period’… You may not be familiar with these terms, yet I’m sure you have heard of the idea: for example, an adult will struggle to master a second language while younger children can do so easily. Are there such critical time periods to learn something, say, to play the piano, basketball or synchronised swimming?

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Why taking care of yourself is important for your child

[By: Sayaka Kidby]

It’s been almost a year since many countries went into lockdown in response to the fast spread of coronavirus. I hope you all are keeping well and safe. Even if you or your loved ones haven’t contracted the virus, many of us are affected in various ways by this pandemic. According to a report by University College London, more than two thirds of UK adults reported various level of worries and anxieties during the pandemic[i]. Moreover, it is reported that 70% of parents felt the changes caused by the pandemic were affecting their unborn baby or young child (e.g., increased crying and/or tantrums, being clingier)[ii].

Read moreWhy taking care of yourself is important for your child

“Technoference”, or how screen time affects your parenting.

[By Penny Bounia-Mastrogianni]

Spoiler Alert: Not positively.

Children’s screen time has been extensively researched during the previous two decades, and it has often been implicated in many undesirable psychological and educational outcomes. For a change, I decided to write some thoughts and relevant findings focusing on the effects that smartphones’ usage – and technology in a wider sense – has on parental behaviour instead. Welcome to my short guilt trip. Don’t worry, you are not alone.

Read more“Technoference”, or how screen time affects your parenting.

How far in their periphery can babies see?

[by Chiara Capparini]

When thinking about vision, we often refer to central vision, which offers the most spatial resolution and visual acuity. Conversely, our visual field can extend to over 90-100° and we receive a considerable amount of visual inputs from peripheral locations [1]. I know, information coming from the edge of the visual field is not as detailed as what we get from central vision, but many everyday activities – such as driving, navigating the environment, detecting a threat, or even dancing – would be highly impaired without peripheral vision.

And what about infants? Shall we assume that infants’ visual field is comparable to ours? Interestingly, human newborns prefer to orient towards peripheral locations [2]. Nonetheless, research has shown that peripheral vision seems to be progressively developing during the first postnatal year of life [3].

To test this, we recorded the behaviour of a group of 9-month-olds who viewed sequences made of a central stimulus followed by a peripheral patch appearing at a random location from 35˚ to 60˚ to the left or the right of the central stimulus. We measured head and eyes orientations to peripheral targets at different locations to understand whether infants could reliably perceive the target or not. We also tested a control group of adults on a similar task. This time, we asked participants to press a key to indicate left or right detection.

We found that babies’ peripheral vision is still developing at nine months of age. Infant performance was unequal across peripheral locations and it was hard for babies to perceive something appearing beyond 50˚. In contrast, adult performance was optimal across all the investigated locations [4].

What does this study tell us? Infants do not have the same visual field that we have. Nevertheless, their visual field is already wide and many everyday activities can benefit from it. For instance, this can help babies to actively gather more information from the surrounding space, improve balance and achieve new motor milestones.


 [1] To, M. P. S., Regan, B. C., Wood, D., & Mollon, J. D. (2011). Vision out of the corner of the eye. Vision Research51(1), 203-214.
[2] Johnson, M., & De Haan, M. (2015). Vision, orienting, and attention. In Developmental cognitive neuroscience: An introduction (pp. 83-109). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
[3] Maurer, D., & Lewis, T. L. (1991). The development of peripheral vision and its physiological underpinnings. In M. J. S. Weiss & P. R. Zelazo (Eds.), Newborn attention: Biological constraints and the influence of experience (pp. 218–255). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.
[4] Capparini, C., To, M., & Reid, V. (2020, July 6-9). Exploring infants’ sensitivity to low-level visual information across the visual field [Poster session]. International Congress of Infant Studies, Glasgow, UK.

Photo reference
Photo by Rasmus Svinding from Pexels

How subtle characteristics of our language can shape children’s social perception

[By: Lisanne Schröer]

Most of us are cautious with our language in front of toddlers and young children. We don’t want to risk that the child will imitate our offensive words. However, there are more reasons to be careful with language around young children. Recently, scientists have found evidence that more subtle characteristics of our language influence how children see themselves and the social world around them.

“Let’s be a scientist!” or “Let’s do science!”

Read moreHow subtle characteristics of our language can shape children’s social perception

Baby summer read for grown-ups

[By: Aude Carteron]

Summer wouldn’t be summer without book recommendations, and I wanted to tell you about the refreshing vacation read brought to you by ‘The Laughing Baby’ by Caspar Addyman. Perfect when paired with a deckchair and total sunblock.

You come for the catchy title, you stay for the entertainment of enthralling topics written in a captivating and fluid style. Add to this Caspar’s highly contagious enthusiasm for his field. If the heat is keeping you away from your summer workout goals, the book will at least exercise your cheek muscles through its wit as well as its up-lifting and moving messages.

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Do babies know if you are a helpful person? Here’s what we found.

[By: Sayaka Kidby]

You may have heard the phrase that babies are little scientists or active learners. They seem to be dependent upon other people in so many ways; they need to be fed, they need to be moved (before they start crawling) and they need to be soothed when they get upset. But at the same time, they have this remarkable ability to learn an incredible amount by looking around the world and hearing other people.

What is impressive is that they do not seem to simply take in everything they see or hear [1]. Previous research has shown that babies and toddlers can choose whom to learn from. For example, copying other people’s behaviour (imitation) is an important way of learning for little ones. They only imitate actions of those who previously performed it competently and confidently, but not actions of those who seemed uncertain about what they were doing [1,2].

Much less is known about whether this selective learning occurs in much younger babies, whose motor skills are still limited.

Read moreDo babies know if you are a helpful person? Here’s what we found.

Home (not) alone – how did children deal with quarantine?

[By: Penny Bounia-Mastrogianni] 

For some of us MOTION early-stage researchers, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was accompanied by moving back to our home countries in a rush and under great uncertainty. I decided to return to Greece and to my family, where, by interacting with my very young sister and other families with children, I realized how many children and adolescents probably had a much harder time mentally coping with the situation than us adults. So I decided to write some thoughts on this challenging reality that many parents and caregivers faced and keep facing.

Read moreHome (not) alone – how did children deal with quarantine?