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Toddlers Think for Themselves!

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Anna Vidos.

Join PEDAL for our Lent term research seminar by Dr Elena Hoicka from the University of Bristol.

Social learning has been a large focus of early developmental psychology for the past three decades. While importantly revealing how culture is transmitted to young children, questions about how young children come up with their own ideas and learn for themselves have been largely ignored. In this talk, I will present research showing that toddlers can be creative and come up with their own ideas. I will focus on two streams of research – toddlers’ creation of their own novel jokes and pretending, and toddlers’ divergent thinking with novel objects. However, I will also demonstrate that social learning can be an important part of children’s independent learning and thought, suggesting both of these strands of learning are inter-connected.

About Dr Elena Hoicka

Elena’s core research area is cognitive development, focusing on creative play in early development, including humour, pretending, and creativity. This topic has strong links to education as two of the three characteristics of effective teaching and learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage are (1) playing and exploring, and (2) creating and thinking critically. While this research area is central to education, there is surprisingly little experimental, quantitative research on creativity in early development. One way in which Elena’s research fills this gap is by using experimental, quantitative methods to discover that toddlers can think for themselves. Some examples of this can be seen through children’s divergent thinking (generating many different ideas within a problem space) as young as 1 year, by inventing their own novel jokes as young as 2 years, and by inventing their own acts of pretending from 3 years. Furthermore, her research suggests humour and pretending have separate roles in education. While pretending might prime children to learn in a strict rule-like way, humour might prime children to allow creativity. Elena’s work also ties social learning and creativity together, with several of her papers suggesting young children can socially learn to think creatively.

This talk is part of the PEDAL - Research Centre for Play in Education, Development & Learning series.

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