Childhood development: from infant to schoolchild

Ett barn som undersöks på Uppsala Barn och Baby Lab

The preschool years are an important period in people’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Despite this, there is a lack of scientifically based knowledge about how best to shape the preschool environment to meet children’s needs. More research is needed to be able to offer upcoming generations the best possible conditions during these critical years. A new centre focusing on research on preschool research could provide answers.

Many important changes occur in a child’s life during their preschool years. This is when they take their first steps in social contexts outside the family, they start to learn in more structured environments and they get to meet and interact with children and adults from different backgrounds. Their interest grows in exploring, playing and learning from and about their surroundings. At the same time, the quality of the preschool environment affects children’s values with respect to society, gender equality, the environment and other individuals.

When children’s home and preschool environment interact positively, this contributes to a favourable cognitive and emotional development that benefits their ability to learn. However, the social and cognitive development of preschool children is a relatively neglected research area. We still do not know how to create an environment for the children that ensures their positive development.

Children’s development during the transition from home to preschool, and systematic studies over time of their cognitive, empathetic and social abilities, are vital fields for research. We need an increased understanding of typical development during this critical period in a child’s life to be able to intervene at an early stage when a child’s development diverges from the norm.

Uppsala University already has a leading baby lab where the focus is on the early foundation for cognitive, motor and social development from infancy to early childhood. Uppsala Child and Baby Lab has experience of using child-friendly, advanced technical instruments and playful yet precise research methods. The laboratory has developed expertise in methods including eye and movement tracking, EEG and neuroimaging.

The researchers now aim to expand this successful research environment to include preschool children. No previous research has linked these age groups to understand the basis of cognitive and social development early in life. Laboratory research closely connected with preschool in a new centre for more age groups would offer unique opportunities to obtain a comprehensive perspective on children’s development from infant to schoolchild. This can help to give children a solid foundation and a positive start for their continued development in youth and adult years

Extending the Baby Lab with research on preschool children would make it possible to identify factors in the childhood environment that have a decisive influence for better or worse on the child’s transition to school.”
Gustaf Gredebäck, Professor of Developmental Psychology