Play Lab Museum Exploratory Behaviors Study

Investigating Deaf and Hearing Children’s Exploratory Behavior at the Strong Museum of Play, in Rochester, New York

Thank you for your interest in the Museum Exploratory Behavior Study. Investigators Dr. Bosworth and Dr. Fitch have research awards (from the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the National Institutes of Health) to study tactile exploratory behaviors and social-language interactions in deaf and hearing preschool children. We are interested in how deaf and hearing children learn from exploration and how parents play a role in their children’s exploratory experiences.

We are recruiting families with 2 to 6 year olds to join the study in person in Rochester. We are interested in recruiting deaf or hearing children who sign or use spoken English. Currently, children with other cognitive or motor disabilities are not eligible for this study. As part of the study, parent-child participants will be scheduled for sessions and asked to explore certain areas at the Strong Museum while being filmed.

If you are interested in participating in this study, you can sign up here: You will be screened for eligibility and contacted by our staff. If you are eligible for this study, you will be contacted by our staff.

For more information please read our parent letter, available in both English and Spanish.

You can also read more about this work below. If you have more questions, please feel free to email

Child playing with colored cogs on spindle

Photo courtesy of The Strong National Museum of Play

Children playing with colored cogs and toys in Play Lab

Photo courtesy of The Strong National Museum of Play

Study Procedures: What will happen if you enroll in this project?

The first session takes place during a scheduled appointment at the Strong Museum of Play. This will consist of recording your child playing for about 10-20 minutes. We also invite you to explore with your child for an additional 10-20 minutes. After these sessions, you are welcome to explore the museum with your whole family! Your family’s museum visit entrance and parking are free to you.

We ask you to return one or two times for language and cognitive assessments, which will be at a location of your choosing (RIT campus, PLAY Lab, or your home). Each session will be about one hour.


Our goal is to study deaf and hearing children as they engage in object exploration in a classroom or museum context.

The project titled “Deaf Preschoolers’ Exploratory Behaviors and Parent Guidance during Shared Museum Experiences” is funded by a 3-year research grant from NIH.

The project titled “Do Tactile Exploratory Behaviors in the Classroom Predict Language Development in Deaf Signing Children?” is funded by a 3-year research grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

Dr. Rain Bosworth is a deaf associate professor and Dr. Allison Fitch is a hearing assistant professor at RIT, both fluent in ASL. A team of deaf and hearing staff members and scientists work together on this project. Learn more about our team here.

The investigators do not have financial gain from this work, other than employment by RIT.

The aim of the research activities is to better understand how children explore in the museum space, how this exploration impacts or benefits learning, and how parents engage with their children in museums designed for children.

Testing is completed within 2 or 3 visits, with each visit about 1 hour.

We aim to recruit about 100 to 140 families that have a 3 to 6 year old child.

All children who fall between the ages of 3 to 6 years of age, who are not immunocompromised, and who do not have cognitive disabilities that preclude assent are eligible to participate.

We aim to recruit (a) families who report using a spoken language in the home and (b) families in which one parent is deaf and both parents use American Sign Language primarily in the home. We compare exploratory behaviors in children who have (a) ≥ 80 dB hearing loss in the better ear versus (b) typical hearing levels.

The groups we aim to contrast are:

  • Deaf children with Signing parents;
  • Deaf children with non-signing parents;
  • Hearing children with signing parents;
  • Hearing children with non-signing parents.

Participants receive an annual membership for a family of four and 50 dollars at the end of the study, which will take place over the course of a few weeks.

You and your child will be filmed. The video will not be shared publicly without your explicit permission. If you decide later that you want the video to be deleted, let us know, and we will remove it from our archives.

We will publish our findings in journals and share with other scientists at conferences. We also share results with parent and teacher groups.