Through a toddler's eyes: Cameras mounted on kids help research on foundations of success

WATCH #LiveOnKMTR Monday, November 6, at 6:30 p.m. for more on this story

EUGENE, Ore. - Scottie Hart lives a life of typical toddler sights, sounds and family time.

But how do these everyday moments set her up for success later?

It's a question researchers at the University of Oregon are working to answer.

“Isn't that amazing?” says Dr. Caitlin Fausey, pointing to video from a camera on a toddler.

Fausey and her team use cameras and audio recorders to capture these personal moments of life.

“What I study is how the first couple years of experience sort of set you up for success," the developmental psychologist said, "What about that foundation is really optimal for helping you learn even more later?”

The project is one of the first of its kind.

From morning to night, for three days, all of Scottie's experiences are recorded and studied.

And Fausey is beginning to draw conclusions from the research - and coming up with new questions.

When it comes to sounds, Dr. Fausey says one thing we know: “The top thing is you hear more language, the better off you're going to be.”

Since most of the brain's development happens in the first three years of life, speaking to your baby triggers crucial connections needed for language and learning.

We also know: repetition matters.

“Seeing something over and over again is probably pretty good," Fausey said. "You can remember from the last time. You can connect it pretty easily to something you've heard before and you start to build up knowledge that way.”

But there's a lot we don't know, like where is the line between too little and too much stimulation.

“What is an optimal mix of getting something over and over again and getting something you haven't experienced yet?" Fausey said. "When we've studied this in the lab we've gotten that both reputation and variability help ... and hurt.”

Fausey said that, in order to clue in on which experiences lead to success, we need a clearer picture of a toddler's world.

“We haven't had the opportunities yet to capture things like day long recordings where we can sort of really understand what's coming in and out throughout the day,” Fausey said.

That's where the cameras come in.

Through hundreds of hours of video and audio, researchers aim to use these different examples to find common patterns and a closer look at how humans learn some of the earliest lessons in life.

“It’s very unlikely to be the case that there is this step-by-step recipe you have to follow," Fausey said. "That's one of the coolest things about human development. There's a huge range of stuff that ends up working out. that's how we're built, but it’s not every possible thing.”

Fausey said if we narrow down those things now, we can later make more clear which roads best lead to a child success.

Scottie's mom Jen said the three day experience was fun for her family.

She also said the study helped her bring up the topic of science with her older daughter.

Fausey and other psychologists at UO run a group of labs called Team Ducklings.

They're always looking for families to help them with their research.

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