The Yale Baby School hosted its first birthday party at the end of last month, which featured kid-friendly crafts, face-painting stations and over 50 costumed babies trick-or-treating.
The Yale Baby School was founded within the purview of the Yale Child Study Center a year ago to promote the research on and education of infants and their parents. The school reaches out to new and expecting parents to conduct developmental research with the mission of creating “a unified resource and research infrastructure for families in New Haven and the surrounding communities,” according to its website. With researchers hailing from across the University, the school is the brainchild of four University researchers — Helena Rutherford, Linda Mayes, Richard Aslin and Nick Turk-Browne GRD ’09. Principal investigators in the program focus on different facets of child rearing, including learning, well-being, memory, pregnancy and parenting.
“Each of the [principal investigators] have a different focus of their research,” said Rutherford, who studies pregnancy and parenting, in an email. “We have very complementary research interests and as the Baby School grows we hope to really advance our understanding of parent and child development.”
Rutherford said that families are encouraged to participate in multiple studies, which allows the school to gather data that will help inform its understanding of infants at different stages of development. According to the school’s website, a typical experiment includes investigating how a child responds to stimuli, such as words, pictures, movies and music.
Kathy Armstrong, the Baby School research coordinator, said that she “recruits families directly from hospitals,” and the school sees them for a brief orientation visit when infants are between four and six months old. She added that families are also given information about the school’s social outreach programs, such as the school’s birthday party, which she called rewarding times to interact with families.
“The next outreach program will be an offering to gather at the New Haven Library,” Armstrong said. “We will have presentations centered on how best to support the whole family as well as refreshments.”
Once parents officially enroll in the program, they gain access to an online course on Yale Canvas, according to the Baby School website. The course features developmental stage-specific information, curated external resources on child well-being and videos filmed exclusively for the course by Yale experts on topics related to caregiving and child development.
All of this information comes at no cost to the participating families. Baby School also pays the participating parents for their time and travel to the on-site study.
“We also want to be sure that we can share what we learn from our research with the community,” Rutherford said. “We’re beginning that with the online course that families enroll in where we will have videos talking about our findings. And our outreach at the [library] will be to talk about some of our research as well as provide an opportunity for parents — and their children — to meet each other.”
As the Baby School continues to develop and grow in the coming years, the team hopes to further engage with ongoing developmental research studies at the Child Study Center. By recruiting more families from across the city, the school plans to advance knowledge about the growing child, “which could have implications for education, parenting, medicine, and more,” according to its website.
Excited to see the number of families grow as the Baby School enters its second year, Armstrong thanked all of the families who have been involved in the school’s work.
“The most rewarding part of my job is always working with families and getting the opportunity to share a small part of their lives,” Armstrong said. “We always look for opportunities to give support back to the families and we are so appreciative of their willingness to be a part of what we do. Plus we get to see many very cute babies!”
The Yale Baby School is located within the Yale Child Study Center at 230 S. Frontage Rd.
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