Why is the ELP Important?

Have you ever wondered what babies are learning or remembering from the world around them? Here at the Georgetown Early Learning Project we are looking at how babies acquire and retain information from different sources. We are particularly interested in the differences in learning from television, books, touchscreens, and live interactions. This research can have implications for the learning and memory processes that occur in the everyday lives of children through having stories read to them, or observing and imitating older siblings and parents. It can also serve as an important tool in developing educational programs that will best suit children of different ages.

What Happens during a visit?

Dr. Rachel Barr established this program and works with graduate students, undergraduate students, and a staff of full-time research assistants in conducting the studies. Participation in studies is completely voluntary, and we rely solely on parent-child volunteers. We try to make the studies as convenient as possible, by coming to the parent and child’s home at a time that is appropriate for them. Each study includes 1-2 visits of about 15 minutes each, at a time of the day when the baby is alert and ready to play. During these 15 minutes we will ask you to go through a series of tasks with your baby. The purpose of the tasks is to observe whether babies learn or are more likely to remember and imitate live demonstrations or video demonstrations.

This program presents a great opportunity for you and your baby to contribute to the research of the capabilities of infants as a whole. If you are interested in learning more about the program or volunteering for a study we urge you to contact us and participate in this great learning experience. We look forward to meeting you and your baby!

How do you get a preverbal infant to tell you anything?

One way to find out is to take advantage of the fact that infants are born imitators. Parents notice that even at birth infants imitate facial gestures. By the time they are a year old they have a wide repertoire of behaviors they imitate, from pointing the remote control at the TV, to playing peek-a-boo, talking on the phone, or fake coughing. So we can show infants how to make a toy work and bring it back a day later and see if they imitate the actions. In order to imitate the actions, they have to remember what they saw the day before.

Parent Resources

Child Trends:

Five things to know about tots and technology are included here.

Children’s Medical Center:

The Children’s medical center web site provides a wealth of information about services for children in the DC metro area. The link will bring you to a search page where you can search for a specific developmental issue. For general information about the Center for Neuroscience and Behavioral Medicine, please call 202-884-5960. For information and appointments for the Attention, learning, and hyperactivity problems center please call 571-226-8393.

Fred Rogers Center:

This blog is an excellent resource for parents interested in early learning and children’s media.

Fred Rogers Center Resource Database:

This database includes numerous links for parents interested in recommendations, research, and policy statements regarding early learning and children’s media.

NIH Health Information Site:

Comprehensive and factual site about many aspects of child development. Also available in Spanish.

Zero to Three: “Zero to Three”

A leading magazine for early childhood development professionals. This Web site provides information for parents about everyday issues of parenting and summary on media viewing research including this report on screen use guidelines for children under 3 co-authored by Dr. Rachel Barr.
Zero to Three: Research Summary 
What the research tells us about the impact of TV/video viewing on children under three

Learn and Grow:

Making the Most of Screen Time: What is media literacy, and how do children develop it?

Center for Healthy Families:
Couples and family therapy services as the University of Maryland.

Game Demonstrations


The Puppet Game

We will show your baby one of these puppets. It is hard to see, but there is a mitten on the right hand, with a bell inside. We will show your baby that the mitten can come off, and shake it to ring the bell inside. If your baby copies the demonstration, we can say that (s)he remembers what we showed them before.


The Rattle Game

We can show your baby how to make a rattle by putting the ball into the jar, placing the stick on top, and shaking the rattle. Will children learn better if this demonstration is seen in a book, on a television, or live?


The Magnet Game

In one demonstration, we will show your baby, either live or on a touch screen, a toy to play with. Will babies and toddlers be more likely to learn from a real-life demonstration than from visual media?