Child Study Centre

Understanding how children learn to talk, play and make friends



Here at the Child Study Centre we are fascinated by how children learn to talk, play and make friends.

How do children go from gestures and babbling to being able to hold conversations, reason with others and make friends? What steps do they encounter along the way? Our research aims to answer questions like these – and many more!

We conduct research at the Centre, as well as in nurseries and schools, and are very grateful for the generous help from all who volunteer to participate in our studies. Any child aged 0-13 can join our database. The majority of our studies are with children aged 0-5, so we are particularly interested in hearing from this age group.



What we do

When humans communicate using language, we use a complex set of skills – we want to find out how and when these develop.

We use a wide range of methods to investigate the development of language, communication and reasoning skills. Observational studies enable us to see what words and phrases are used when children play naturally, and we sometimes use puppets and toys to tell stories in order to check understanding.

Other techniques such as eye tracking are useful as, by using a special camera, we can see exactly where infants look when they’re shown images or videos. Using the information from studies such as these, we can begin to piece together how much babies and infants know about the world, and how they learn from it.



Little scientists needed!

Find out how you and your child can volunteer to take part in one of our studies.

If you would like to add your child to the volunteer list, you should complete the online registration form.

If you join the volunteer list, you are not committing to take part in any studies – you are simply agreeing to be contacted about future studies. If we contact you with details of a suitable study, you are under no obligation to take part.

Any child from 0-13 can join the database – please pass on our details to anyone you think may be interested.

If you decide you no longer want to be on the database, email us at stating you want your name to be removed.

More about our studies

What's involved in a typical visit?

If you have registered with us and your child is the right age for one of our studies, we will email or write to you, describing our study. Some studies take place online via Zoom and if you are happy to take part our researchers will arrange a date and time to fit in with you and your child. However if a study can only be carried out face to face, we will arrange a convenient time for you to visit the Child Study Centre.

When you and your child arrive at the Centre, a friendly researcher will welcome you. We will explain the study to you again and will answer any questions you might have. We will also give you a consent form to sign, saying that you are happy for your child to participate.

If for any reason your child decides against participating, you are free to withdraw them at any time. Once everyone is comfortable we will move to a nearby room to start the study. You will be with your child at all times.

Normally, your child will sit on a chair or on your lap. All our studies are designed to be interesting and fun and should take no more than half an hour. After the study we will answer any questions you might have.

Please let us know if you want to bring along siblings and another adult to look after them – we have plenty of toys and drawing materials to keep them entertained during your visit, as well as baby changing facilities and spare nappies (just in case!).

Watch our video showing you where we are on campus and our research activities.

Research ethics

All of our studies are approved by the ethics committee at the University. Information about your child is confidential and all data is kept anonymous.

Personal details will be kept securely offline and only for the purpose stated. You can ask for your details to be removed from our database at any time.

Our studies aren’t designed to assess the performance of individual children. However, once a study has finished you will get feedback on the overall findings of the research.

Schools and nurseries

A lot of the studies are run with the help of local schools and nurseries. If you know a school or nursery that might like to participate please ask them to get in touch.


The Centre is located in the Coupland 1 building on Coupland Street, on the main University of Manchester campus.

For those using public transport, we are based just off Oxford Road, which is well served by bus services. See a list of bus services going to the University campus.

For those travelling by car there is a car park just a short walk from our building (See map below). Full directions will be sent out prior to a visit.


Getting in touch

For enquiries or to register: