Research Themes

Imagination, Curiosity, Culture, and Wellness


Imagining alternative representations of reality is a unique and fundamental aspect of the human mind. The human child can revisit the past, think of the future and imagine impossible worlds. The ability to represent alternatives of reality manifests early in development through children’s pretend play. Many developmental theorists emphasize the important role of play and imagination in children’s learning. Through imaginary play and active exploration, children engage actively with the world around them. Children’s play is an active form of learning through which they can figure out solutions both on their own and in collaboration with others. An active imagination is viewed as an essential ability for children’s learning and thinking and serves to be a worthy area of study and investment.


From birth children actively modulate their learning according to their interests across many domains. Children’s curiosity, this amazing drive to acquire information about the physical and social world, impacts their attention, goals, and interactions with both the physical and the social world. Although the influence of curiosity on children’s learning and development has been widely recognized by developmental and educational theorists for decades, we have only recently begun to systematically study curiosity and its crucial role in driving knowledge acquisition. Despite general consensus among educators on the value of curiosity, studies have shown rapid diminishment of children’s expressions of curiosity once they enter school. Research is just now beginning to examine variability in children’s active learning as a function of the interaction between individual characteristics such as curiosity and the ways in which the learning environment is structured.

Culture, Participation and Competence

Child development is a cultural process, a bidirectional activity involving children in relation to significant others such as parents and teachers. Culture represents the complex context of existence: experience, community, identity, time, and space. As a bio-social process, culture influences all aspects of the child’s consciousness, how children are enculturated influences how they learn and experience the world of others who are also defined by their participation and relationships. Language and other cultural tools come to characterize their adaptive capacities, ability to learn, and relationships with others. Competence is in large part socially determined and socially distributed by participation throughout the lifespan. Issues of equity and social justice are paramount in the shaping of life chances and opportunities.

Wellness and Wellbeing

The development of wellness and wellbeing begins before birth as family context interacts with maternal and paternal wellbeing and child health and wellbeing. Wellness is the context for wellbeing. Wellness is a state or condition of safety created by the simultaneous satisfaction of personal, interpersonal, cultural, and environmental needs and wants. Well being is the sense of satisfaction, security, and the responsibility that arises from being an agent in creating and experiencing wellness. Wellness is a macro concept and well- being is a micro concept. Although similar to the notion of mental health, the linked concepts of wellness and well -being focus on positive collective and personal dimensions of coping and adaptation. Wellness and wellbeing interact with context and individuals’ responses to these context (e.g., stress, coping). Contexts can also be a source of wellness and wellbeing when they build opportunities for social connections, engagement, and awareness of healthy actions and behaviours. Studying the promotion of wellness and wellbeing across development as well as the interaction between individual and community characteristics that may support or hinder wellness is important to creating healthy societies.