Introducing Dr. Annette Henderson

Dr. Annette Henderson

Annette is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at University of Auckland where she directs the Early Learning Lab. The overarching goal of her research is to understand how infants and young children learn from their early experiences to become socially, cognitively, and linguistically competent members of their social world.

Why is PlayLogy such a great idea?

PlayLogy provides caregivers of children under two years with a unique solution to a problem that many caregivers experience – identifying the toys that their baby is likely to find most interesting given their stage of development. Caregivers find it challenging to solve this problem for (at least) two key reasons. First, babies cannot use words to tell us what they like or what they are thinking. Second, caregivers often do not have the time/resources to sift through the internet to identify which toys are ideal for which developmental period. PlayLogy helps caregivers tackle these challenges by using decades of developmental science research to guide the selection of toys and activities that are targeted for specific developmental windows across the first two years of life. In so doing, the items in the boxes should be appealing to babies when they get them, or soon thereafter.

Why is play in general is so important for babies?

Play is so important for babies because it is the ideal context for their learning. With fun, enjoyment and connection at its core, play promotes learning in all areas of development – Physical, Cognitive, Language, Social and Emotional.

Why stage-based play is a good idea?

Decades of research in developmental science has provided valuable information about how and what babies learn and when this learning generally takes place. While babies all develop at their own pace, there are general steps that babies generally go through along their learning journey. Stage-based play capitalises on this knowledge by introducing objects and activities that have been developed with the baby’s developmental stage in mind. Providing objects or activities that do not match the baby’s stage (either they are too young, or too old) will reduce the likelihood that the baby will find the object/activity interesting. Capturing a baby’s interest is key to attention and motivation and thus, is an essential ingredient for learning. Gearing play towards these stages will also help you and your baby grow together. Indeed, by aiming your play at their developmental level (or just slightly above their developmental level) you and your baby will be rewarded with signs of growth and development… but be patient! All babies develop at different rates. If your baby (or you) get frustrated with a certain activity/toy, then move on and come back to it after a few weeks.

A few words of wisdom.

As a parent myself, I often felt like I had to sit down and “do” something with my baby or achieve something. This resulted in me being pre-occupied with my own thoughts and goals, which meant that I often missed some important signals my son was giving me regarding what he was interested in doing. I was so worried about making sure I was doing everything “right” that I almost missed out on just enjoying these important early moments with my son. Reflecting on this, I encourage parents who may be worrying about what their baby should be achieving during every interaction to let those thoughts go. Instead, try to relax and tune into the cues that your baby is providing that signal when they are ready to play and learn. Enjoy it and they will too.

Additional reading

If you are wanting some extra bedtime reading, Annette has shared a list of her favourite articles on Developmental Psychology. Including a fascinating article that she wrote on infants’ social intelligence. It’s an easy read and provides a good review of infants’ understanding of actions, goals, and intentions.

  • Adolph, K. E., Cole, W. G., Komati, M., Garciaguirre, J. S., Badaly, D., Lingeman, J. M., Chan, G. L. Y., & Sotsky, R. B. (2012). How Do You Learn to Walk? Thousands of Steps and Dozens of Falls per Day. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1387–1394.
  • Brand, R. J., Baldwin, D. A., & Ashburn, L. A. (2002). Evidence for “motionese”: modifications in mothers’ infant-directed action. Developmental Science, 5(1), 72–83.
  • Dickinson, D. K., Griffith, J. A., Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2012). How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World. Child Development Research, 2012, 1–15.
  • Golinkoff, R. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Singer, D. G. (2006). Why Play = Learning: A Challenge for Parents and Educators. In Play = Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children's Cognitive and Social Emotional Growth (pp. 1–13).
  • Naigles, L. R. (2020). It Takes All Kinds (of Information) to Learn a Language: Investigating the Language Comprehension of Typical Children and Children With Autism. Current Directions in Psychological Science.