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Tiny to Tots

We study how babies, toddlers and children develop and learn from the people and the world around them.

We are based in the Cardiff University Centre for Human Development Science (CUCHDS) – and study how babies, toddlers and children develop socially, cognitively and learn all about the world around them. We use fun studies to gain insight into how children develop their social skills and cognitive abilities from as young as 3-months-old to primary school ages.

The Tiny to Tots Facebook group is a great place to learn more about our research and get involved with community discussions.


  • To identify and describe fundamental processes in the development of cognition, communication, and emotion.
  • To evaluate these processes within relevant contexts (in nature, during free play, in schools, with parents, etc.).
  • To investigate whether findings are consistent across converging methods (behaviour, parent and child report, looking time, neuroimaging, etc).
  • To provide hands-on and multi-faceted training to emerging scientists.
  • To engage with families, practitioners, and the broader community to help share our research and inform future research directions.


Our research aims to discover more about the development of infants and children through both in-person and virtual sessions.


Our selected projects will give you more of an idea about the type of research we undertake:

The neural signature of children with Developmental Coordination Disorder

Co-Investigators: Sarah Gerson, Catherine Jones, Ross Vanderwert, postdoc: Jennifer Keating. Funded by Waterloo.

The role of incorrect predictions in children's comprehension of structural alternations

In this project, we use a fun tablet-based game and eye-tracking to ask how 4 year olds learn difficult grammatical structures. (British Academy Small Project Grant), PI: Chiara Gambi, co-I Katherine Messenger (Warwick).

A multi-methodological approach to assessing the benefits of play

With an industry partner, we are investigating the effects of doll play on the brain and development. PIs: Sarah Gerson and Ross Vanderwert.

Implications of pacifier use for the development of emotional competence

We’re researching how pacifiers impact the development of emotion understanding and regulation in infants. (British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant), PI: Ross Vanderwert.

Development of wearable, room-temperature and movement-tolerant MEG for adults and children at Cardiff University

The newest in wearable neuroimaging research is being developed in the Cardiff University Centre for Human Developmental Sciences (CUCHDS) in partnership with the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC). Fast and accurate measurements of neural activity can now be captured from sensors worn in a cap that moves with the child. (Wellcome Trust ISSF3), co-I: Ross Vanderwert.

Generation wild: The role of children’s experiences of nature in nature connectedness, wellbeing, and environmental values and behaviour

Generation Wild is a collaboration between Cardiff University and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) investigating how nature-based interventions can enhance children’s wellbeing as well as their care and concern for the natural world. (Cardiff University and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), PI: Merideth Gattis, co-Is: Wouter Poortinga, Kersty Hobson, Julia Newth, Jonathan Reeves, PhD student: TBD.

Sharing rhymes and rhythms across generations: Mutual benefits of music and reading aloud between children and individuals with dementia

We are interested in investigating the bidirectional benefits of intergenerational interactions between children and individuals with dementia. (ESRC DTP Collaborative funding in collaboration with Health and Care Research Wales)- PI: Sarah Gerson, PhD student: Jonny Flint.

Investigating and improving STEM learning: From computer coding to logic across home, lab and school

This project investigates the incorporation of robotics into early formal and informal learning settings in laying the groundwork for STEM. (ESRC DTP Collaborative funding in collaboration with Techniquest & PrimoToys)- PI: Sarah Gerson, PhD student: Amy Hughes.

Understanding risk factors for disordered eating in children

ESRC DTP Open Studentship- PhD student: Kai Thomas, Supervisors: Ross Vanderwert, Catherine Jones

The role of the sensorimotor system in infant verb acquisition

ESRC DTP Open Studentship- PhD student: Kelsey Frewin, Supervisors: Sarah Gerson, Chiara Gambi, Ross Vanderwert

The role of statistical domain-general mechanisms in early language acquisition: A computational and experimental investigation

Cardiff University and Nottingham Trent University – PhD student: Francesco Cabiddu, Supervisors: Chiara Gambi, Lewis Bott and Gary Jones (Nottingham Trent)


Next steps


Research that matters

Our research makes a difference to people’s lives as we work across disciplines to tackle major challenges facing society, the economy and our environment.


Postgraduate research

Our research degrees give the opportunity to investigate a specific topic in depth among field-leading researchers.


Our research impact

Our research case studies highlight some of the areas where we deliver positive research impact.