Research is fun… for the kids.

I read email messages, Facebook status updates, Tweets, magazines, texts, and newspapers daily that are full of fun ideas of activities to do with your children.  This week Chicago Parent posted a free museum to go to everyday this week; the Boston Central provides a calendar of fun events including Drop-in Art Workshops, TimeOut New York Kids offers a Guide to Winter Fun.  It’s amazing that with all of these fun and free ideas of activities and things to do that none of these sites ever suggest participating in research.

OK, I know that for most parents that sentence sounds crazy. Fun activities are going to the aquarium, seeing a Justin Beiber concert, building a sandcastle at the beach. I know participating in research sounds like something that you do when you are horribly sick and the current medicine isn’t working. Yes, that is one kind of research and most likely that isn’t fun or something anyone would choose to do on their free Saturday morning. The good news is there are a LOT of other fun ways to participate in research and I promise they really are fun for kids and parents!

Honestly, most research studies for kids are really fun for the kids and the parents learn a lot too.  As a researcher myself, I will admit that I have (on more than a few occasions) encouraged my parent-friends to participate in studies for primarily selfish reasons (someone’s kids had to be in my dissertation!). But, every time I have introduced my parent-friends to research they have loved it!  Parents almost always leave saying “wow that was fun!” or “it was so cool to see him do that, I had no idea my son was able to do that!”.  And the kids really do have fun (especially when the leave with a new fun toy or book, which some studies offer as a gift for participating).  There are times when we have gotten emails weeks and months after a child participates from a parent who wants us to know that her child keeps asking when they can come back and play more games (aka be in a study) with us.

Now how do you find fun studies for your kids to participate in?  Universities are a great place to look. Many child development labs are in psychology departments but you can also find research projects in the medical schools, schools of communication, education departments, human development departments, etc.  Here are some links to great labs around the country that are doing really cool research with kids!  Honestly, this is a great activity for a cold winter day (or any day)!

Amherst, MA

University of Massachusetts, Amherst Child Study Center

Boston, MA

Boston University Child Development Labs; Boston College Child Development Studies; Harvard Laboratory for Developmental Studies

Chicago, IL

University of Chicago: Center for Early Childhood Research; Northwestern University: Project on Child Development; Early Learning Laboratory

Columbus, OH

Otterbein University’s The Children and Media Project

Charlottesville, VA

UVA: Child Study Center

Los Angeles, CA

University of California, Los Angeles: Language and Cognitive Development Lab

Nashville, TN

Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt Early Development Lab

New York,  NY

New York University: NYU Child Study Center; Baby & Child@ NYU

Riverside, CA

University of California, Riverside:Childhood Cognition Lab

Seattle, WA

University of Washington: Institute for Learning and Brian Sciences

Washington, DC

Georgetown Children’s Digital Media CenterGeorgetown Early Learning Project

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1 Comment

Filed under All Kids

One response to “Research is fun… for the kids.

  1. Thanks, Alexis! This is a great post. As a researcher, I have also found that parents and children often tell me how much fun they had in my studies. I think the problem is that there is, unfortunately, a negative perception of what psychological research is like. Many parents are pleasantly surprised that their child is asked to play a game with the researcher or to play with some special toys. And the children seem to really enjoy the personal attention they get from the researchers. It’s true that many families are eager to participate again!

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