Participate in MIT Research—From Your Couch!

I'm no scientist, but for me, one of the most fascinating parts of my job is writing about studies on kids. Whether it's data on the effects of video games or the downsides of early potty training, I'm intrigued by the (often complex) methods researchers must use—and how much time the work can take! And as soon as one study ends, another begins to discover more answers. It never ends!

So naturally, I was intrigued when an expert I interviewed over the summer mentioned Lookit, a new site developed by MIT's Early Childhood Cognition Laboratory to study how infants and young kids learn. Parents all over the globe can take part in real scientific research, just by completing 5- to 10-minute activities via webcam. There's no need to go to a lab—just get comfy on your couch with your child. "What we're really trying to do here is to harness the power of parents as citizen scientists," says Kim Scott, Lookit project leader. "As parents we observe and wonder about our kids all day."

The website currently features six different studies for participants four months through 5 years old. The types of activities vary depending on the age of your child. For infants, the lab often measures where she looks and how long she stares. Meanwhile, older children can work on activities such as learning new verbs or reading facial expressions. And don't worry—the site doesn't collect names or publish identifying info.

For more information, and to get involved with Lookit, check out the site. Happy experimenting!

Image: Mother and child with laptop via Shutterstock

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