Essex Babylab hosts monthly coffee mornings for parents with babies, those expecting a baby, or anyone interested in learning more about infant development and tips to promote positive and healthy child development. This is also a wonderful forum where parents can interact and share their experiences. There is no ‘one size fits all’ manual to parenting, and thus through these events, Essex Babylab aims to share up-to-date scientific discoveries with the parents and help them explore and know more about their own babies.
The January coffee morning focused on musicality and rhythm in babies. Music has been shown to play a vital role in child development. Have you observed babies smiling or swaying when music is played? Or have you seen them bang on pots and pans, jamming to their hearts' content?
It goes without saying that babies love and benefit greatly from music. Music has traditionally been a part of child development in the form of lullabies. It is interesting to note that a musical environment can contribute to the child’s sensory and cognitive development by means of children being not only recipients but also producers of music.
During the first half of our session, Dr Sinead Rocha from Anglia Ruskin University spoke to us about her research on rhythm perception and production in infants. She shed light on how humans, and infants in particular, have and develop musical skills. If we carefully observe, we can note that children have a natural rhythmic tempo that their movements coordinate. They also have the ability to synchronise their movements to the rhythms and beats that they hear.
Dr Rocha also argues that the experience of being carried can mould a child’s sense of and preference for rhythm. She further elucidated her current studies and how the findings could be made relevant to parents with infants. Thus, we note how babies are natural musicians and have a knack for tones, notes, and beats from a very young age.
The talk was then followed by a break for everyone to grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. The second half of the event was a taster session conducted by Elizabeth Whitworth from Rhythm Time, Colchester. Rhythm Time conducts fun, developmental music classes for children.
Ms Whitworth facilitated a range of musical activities for the children during which parents and children engaged in various interactions, making it a bonding moment. A wide range of toys and equipment, ranging from a rattle to a drum, was used. Ms Whitworth explained the benefits of each task while conducting them, which helped the parents understand why each activity was important. From infants to pre-schoolers, all of them thoroughly enjoyed the session. The room was filled with music, smiles, and giggles, from parents and children alike.
The next coffee morning will be on Saturday 25th February at Wivenhoe Park Day Nursery (10am-12pm), and will focus on sensory development, with an overview of the research by Dr Carina De Klerk and a taster session by Baby Sensory Colchester and Witham. Join us to learn about scientific discoveries and hot tips from our lab!
Department of Psychology, University of Essex
Maria Laura completed her undergraduate and master degrees in Developmental and Educational Psychology at University of Padua, in Italy. She then moved to London to start a PhD (funded by the Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher Fellowship) at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck College London, under the supervision of Prof Mark H. Johnson. Here she investigated body perception in newborns and infants.
Maria Laura's first post-doctoral position at Royal Holloway University of London focused on the interaction between interoceptive and exteroceptive body-related signals in the development of body-awareness in infants and adults. In 2016, she moved to University College London to further her expertise on self- and body-awareness across the lifespan, with a specific focus on affective touch.
Maria Laura joined the Department of Psychology of University of Essex in Autumn 2017 as a lecturer.
Department of Psychology, University of Essex
She joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex in September 2013. She completed her BSc and MSc in Developmental and Educational Psychology at University of Padua, Italy. She then worked with Dr. Teresa Farroni at the Hospital of Monfalcone (Trieste), Italy, investigating face perception in newborns. She then moved to London where she obtained a PhD at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck College, supervised by Professor Mark Johnson. She then spent three years working as a postdoc at the Goldsmiths InfantLab, directed by Dr. Andy Bremner, investigating the development of the neural basis of tactile localisation.