Joint Attention + Peek Box Project
Parents are often amazed at the kinds of things their children do. Ever wondered, “How did my child learn that?” At the University of St Andrews Baby and Child (ABC) Lab we are trying to understand just that – how children think and learn.
One of the ways babies think and learn is through what’s called ‘joint attention’. They use this ability throughout childhood, and we use it everyday as adults too.
What is joint attention?
Babies are born into an exciting world full of lots of different sights and sounds. Joint attention is a special ability that we use to share our experiences of the world with other people and learn from others. Has your baby ever pointed at exciting things to share them with you, or held up an object to show it to you, or looked at you with a big smile when something interesting happened? If so, the two of you have engaged in joint attention: coordinating your attention to objects or events in order to share interest in them with each other.
Why is it an important skill?
This is an important skill because it helps babies to connect socially with others about the exciting things going on around them. With the help of joint attention, babies can begin to understand crucial things, like the meaning of words and the ways in which other people’s perspectives and attitudes differ from their own. It’s not just enjoyable, it also helps babies and children learn. And it’s crucial for other important skills like communication and cooperation.
Joint Attention Ideas to try with your child at home
Ideas to Try at Home
The Peek Box Project at Dundee Science Centre – background
The Peek Boxes were created for Dundee Science Centre for a project led by the ABC Lab, and funded by the University of St Andrews Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund. They aim to teach caregivers and educators about the benefits of sharing moments of joint attention with their children.
How to use the Peek Boxes
There are three boxes, each with their own theme: Underground, and Under Water, Picnic Time. The boxes have holes that you and your child are invited to peek through together, and observe and discuss the magical, intricate creations inside. Questions on nearby display boards can help get you started finding and focusing on things together, but then feel free to just follow your own interests and point out interesting things you see, and react excitedly to the things your child points out to you. Use these opportunities to provide the names of animals your child might not know (like the pufflings or the narwhal), or fun facts about them. There are also activities linked to the boxes in nearby ‘activity drawers’, and below we provide some tips for caregivers and educators to encourage more moments of joint attention with their children.
Art and Science
Using art to engage with science demonstrates that we don’t have to be scientists to engage with science. The idea behind this exhibit is to present a complex scientific concept in a visual and fun way. Sometimes science communication is easier to achieve in a visual way rather than using text. Presenting concepts this way can save time too, by making content easier to process – especially helpful if you are a science centre visitor who is also a parent occupied with small children!
About the Artist
The scenes within the boxes were created by award-winning Glasgow-based artist Eleanor Stewart, using sustainable materials such as wood and paper.
Eleanor specialises in creating playful hand-crafted models and animations out of paper. Eleanor is the Director of Clubhouse, an Independent Animation Studio based in Glasgow, and has produced work for a variety of international clients including Dior, Poppy Scotland, RSPB and National Galleries Scotland. Her bespoke paper models and set design have featured in magazines, advertising and window displays.
Participate in one of our research studies
If you would like to find out more about our research and potentially take part in one of our studies, please click the sign up button above to enter your name into our participant database. Then when a study starts in your child’s age range, a researcher will contact you.