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Dr Christina MacRae on Investigating sensory-motor learning in two-year olds

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Dr Christina MacRae on Investigating sensory-motor learning in two-year olds


Christina was trained as an early years nursery teacher and has worked in diverse early years settings in London, Bristol and Bradford.  She is currently a Research Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University and she works in the Children and Childhoods research group in the Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI) at the Faculty of Education. She is interested in children’s world-making practices, and in particular in the way that the senses and movement are at the core of children’s ways of knowing the world.

In this interview, we discuss sensory-motor learning in two-year-olds, Froebel, slow-motion video as a research tool and parents as co-researchers.

Christina has a close relationship with Martenscroft Nursery School and Children’s Centre where her work has been focussed on two-year-olds.  In her recent project “The Sensory Nursery” she developed a practice of ‘slow’ research, adopting a position of both participant and observer, and where she works alongside children, early years practitioners and parents.  Currently, Christina is working with Professor Maggie MacLure on a Froebel Trust funded project called  “Listening-2: Investigating sensory-motor learning in two-year olds”.   This project brings Froebelian philosophy into conversation with a materially-informed pedagogy, drawing on Froebelian concepts such as ‘unfoldment’, attention and intuition. At the heart of the project video-based methodology that allows parents as co-researchers to ‘listen’ to 2-year-olds, where ‘listening’ is understood as an expanded attentiveness, not simply to words, but crucially, to movement, sound and gesture.

If you would like to hear more about the Listening-2 project, there is an online seminar on Thursday 4th June:

Exploring Froebel’s idea of ‘unfoldment’ in two-year olds using slow motion video data.

Tickets can be booked through this eventbrite link.

Christina is also involved in research projects that are developing links between cultural organisations such as Museums and Art Galleries, as well as with performance artists in order to work collaboratively to create public spaces for families and very young children. She helped to edit the just-published Working with Young Children in Museums: Weaving Practice and Theory; a book that introduces theoretical concepts using case studies that provide inspirational insights into everyday programming in museums.

Links to recent work emerging from use of slow-motion video methodologies:

MacRae, C. (2020). Tactful hands and vibrant mattering in the sand tray. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

MacRae, C. (2019). ‘Grace Taking Form’, Video Journal of Education and Pedagogy, 4(1), 151-166. doi:

MacRae, C. (2019) The Red Blanket: A dance of animacy. Global Studies of Childhood,

MacRae, C. (2019) The Red Blanket: sensing difference in body play, Online research briefing for TACTYC (The Association of Professional Development for the Early Years)




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