Listening-2: Investigating sensory-motor learning in two-year olds

Manchester Metropolitan University

The ‘Listening-2’ project will create an innovative method of listening with 2-year olds, developed in collaboration with parents and early years practitioners, to support children’s learning through their exploratory interactions with other people and the material world. Drawing on Froebelian philosophy, the project values parents’ knowledge of their own children, while also engaging with Froebel’s idea that there is something unique about the ways that young children engage with the world. By tuning in to this, adults can learn both from and with the child. 


Based in a government-funded nursery setting, the research uses Froebelian principles to deepen understanding of two-year-old children’s sensory-motor relationships with their environment. While there has been some research on social and cognitive aspects of development in this age group, there is now also an emerging field that attends to the significance of other factors such as sensation, movement and interaction with the material environment. We contend that there is untapped potential in bringing Froebelian philosophy into conversation with a materially-informed pedagogy that is attentive to 2-year olds’ sensory and affective ways of knowing. In particular we will draw on Froebelian concepts such as ‘unfoldment’, attention and intuition. At the heart of the project is an innovative slow-motion, video-based methodology that allows parents as co-researchers to ‘listen’ to 2-year-olds in a dedicated community space, where ‘listening’ is understood as an expanded attentiveness, not simply to words, but crucially, to movement, sound and gesture.  


Listening-2 builds on strong, well-established relationships within a nursery setting. It explicitly engages parents and early years practitioners as researcher-collaborators in a diverse, inner-city Children’s Centre in Manchester. It has much to contribute to national debates around disadvantage, parenting and school readiness, by understanding parents’ engagements with their children as positive attunement rather than as parenting ‘deficit’.  



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