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2009 November | Child Development | giggle Blogs

Archive: November 2009

November 30, 2009

Drawers, Doors, Pots, Pans & Household Objects

Why do our little ones want to get their hands on any loose object in the house? Why are they so fascinated with opening every drawer or door and dumping out whatever they can? Who hasn’t seen the delight of a baby getting a hold of mama’s purse, emptying the entire thing and rummaging through each item. Another classic is the grabbing of the glasses from Grandma’s nose. These Everyday objects are what populate our babies’ world so naturally they want to seize and explore. And of course, the value of, or interest in an object skyrockets when mom, dad or other important person has it; they want what you have. They are fascinated by the variety of objects and relationships between objects such as the spatial relationship of the container (purse) and the contained (lipstick case).

Exploring the House

Exploring the House

Infants bring to their mouth objects that they can grasp– the edge of their blanket, the end of a rattle, a shoelace. In so doing, they gain information both about the shape of the object and the capacity of their mouth.  The mouth is like a third hand and the object to mouth relation is an important foundation for reading the spatial world.  Infants will search for objects they drop.  This helps them figure out the relation of objects to supporting surfaces. Whitney like most babies never seemed to tire of dropping objects from her high chair (http://bit.ly/7qAJyB). They also experiment with relations such as when object is out of reach or only hidden behind a fold in the blanket.  And of course infants love to make the whole visual world disappear by covering their eyes with their blanket, then peeking out again.  These games teach them the concept of covering, which is not really the same as disappearing.

Toddlers have improved dexterity and therefore have more possible ways to handle objects and understand the relationships between them. The child can place and release one block on top of another, in effect saying, “I can make that block (the one on the floor) grow.”  They also like to swipe the top block off, in effect saying, “I know this tall object looks like a whole, but see, it is really separate parts.” They not only explore separate and whole, but also inside and out.  ONEs love to put small objects into cups and containers, then dump them out.  They are exploring the paradox between gone/not-gone, inside/outside, attached/not attached. (See Whitney at http://bit.ly/6iF4LS)

Watch carefully for early examples of sorting objects.  The one year old shows his/her thinking more by the order in which he touches objects than by physically sorting them here and there.  He might touch four of the little cars and none of the little cats.  This behavior indicates that he has organized in his mind that the cars are all members of the same category.  But he can put two cube blocks together in a stack, and later in a row.  These pairings are not categories, but simply physical adjacencies that make something he likes.

TWOs invent new ways to play with relations such as inside and outside.  A cube can go in a cup, but also the cup can go over (cover) the block on the table. The child has discovered the inverse of cube inside cup, i.e. cup outside cube. As children play and talk about containers, they are “unpacking” the complexities of spatial relations. Watch to decide if your child is more interested in placing an object in to leave it contained, placing it in to make it disappear, placing it to take it out, making the container become the contained (e.g. nesting cups) or even opening and closing the container without interest in contents. Then gently summarize in words what you see, such as, “You closed the lid.”  Then do something slightly more complicated and put your action to words, “I put the lid on the bottom.”

When children explore small objects, we can see the way they think.  We know they are thinking about physical similarity when they sort a group of objects into categories, such as all the red ones here and the yellow ones over there.  We know they are thinking about vacant space when they deliberately make a gap between two blocks and call it a “door.” The more we slow down, let them grab hold of those everyday objects, the more our children will figure out what all these objects are and how they’re put to use.

eebee’s adventures has a bunch of great everyday object play ideas for you and your child in its All in a Day’s Play DVD currently available in stores like giggle or at www.eebee.com.

November 16, 2009

Light & Shadow Play

Now that it is Fall and the sun is much lower in the sky, the shadows that our little ones cast are very long and noticeable—a wonderful time for light and shadow play!

Light & Shadow as "baby science"

Light & Shadow play as "baby science"

As a toddler, Whitney was fascinated by her shadow, the big black dark thing she could not seem to shake or run away from. It was always there. Whitney would try to run right and then run left but that shadow thing was still there. Then she did discover that if she stood next to dad and his shadow that hers would seem to disappear as it was engulfed by dad’s bigger shadow. She also noticed that on the driveway it was long but when she walked near a wall it would magically transform into a tall person-like thing. (see www.RaisingWhit.com or http://bit.ly/44WMnA) This is classic light and shadow exploration and it is really important as it is our babies’ concrete way into the behavior of “fields” such as light that are not solid discrete objects but instead are continuous rays (like light) or a spectrum from source to end point. Causality underpins all of physical science, yet we are not born knowing how it works. We have to figure it out. Does a ball rolling in front of a light cause the shadow to move or does the moving shadow cause the ball to roll? Light and shadow are the perfect medium for children to explore unique causality and properties and personality of “fields”–  baby physics in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The youngest babies notice when focused light shines on an object it becomes animated with life and calls out to observed, touched, and moved. When a shadow looms up on a wall it will give your child pause.  Light entices the child to explore, and shadows play tricks that heighten curiosity.   Even young children expect solid objects to maintain their basic size when moved, but shadows exhibit a different logic of expanding, contracting, and disappearing altogether.

Toddlers frequently start out believing that shadows act like objects.  A spot of light might look like something running across the floor.  Children first treat light spots and shadows as if they are objects themselves and can be moved or stopped by touching.  Even when children know that they cannot move the spots by direct contact, they still have to learn what sort of things are light and shadow. A two-year old child might try to cover a shadow with a cloth to hide the shadow.  A young two might place his hands directly under a flashlight, not realizing that the light is everywhere between the flashlight and the floor and he can still “catch” the light farther away from the flashlight.  It takes a while to learn that the light spot or the shadow can occur at any point between the light source and the floor, as long as there is a physical surface at that point to reflect the beam of light.

Our little ones eventually learn that light is not a hard and graspable object.  Light radiates from a point and travels through all points out from that source, unless blocked by a surface.  When children learn how light and shadows work they are beginning to experience and understand the properties of fields.  A field is everywhere at once, yet can be shaped by objects in the field. (e.g. the light shines everywhere but can be blocked by a wall, reducing its field).  Fields are different from straight lines of force or a linear action/reaction, such as a ball rolling down a ramp.  Believe it or not by experiencing it, babies are beginning to figure this out.

Our role in all this light exploration is to carefully observe what our little ones are still trying to figure out and muck around with them. Where is the source of light? Where do I have to stand to make my shadow really big?  Once you spot what your child is thinking about, don’t tell him the answers.  Wonder out loud with him.  “Hmm, now how can you make your shadow taller?”  or “I wonder where the spot will go if you shine the flashlight into the mirror rather than on the wall?”  Don’t expect a clean experimental test, but do trust that your questions will generate play with more purpose.

eebee’s adventures has a bunch of great light & shadow play ideas for you and your child in its Figuring Things Out DVD currently available in stores like giggle or at www.eebee.com.

November 9, 2009

Paper Play

A material we don’t think of as a toy or something for babies to play with is paper, but actually we could not be more mistaken. Babies love to explore paper. As mentioned in my first post (8/26), babies will often spend more time with the wrapping paper and the box then the present inside. They love to see the many things paper can do: flap, bend, crease, wad, tear, crackle, crunch, flutter! They love all the sounds they can make with it. Who hasn’t seen their baby grab onto some paper and give it a test ride:

- it's baby math

- it's baby math

As an infant, Whitney couldn’t wait to get her hands on some white fluffy paper. She was intent on trying out all sorts of paper transformations (see video at RaisingWhit.com / http://bit.ly/237Kf3). She discovered that paper can easily tear unlike wood, plastic and most other objects; that paper once torn it  cannot meld back together; that paper can float in the air and does not fall like a block; it can bend but not bounce like a ball; that it can fold over but does not keep its shape and fops back.   She was learning the class of transformations that define “paper.”

As a toddler, Whitney began to develop more complex concepts about paper. In general paper play orients children to the power of using a single plane (flat surfaces) and what happens when that plane is folded into the third dimension. It gains structure that transforms the surface into an object with functions– Wow, I made a ball that I can throw! The plane of the paper can hide things; it can be transformed to three- dimensional structures; it can be combined to create new shapes.  Paper invites the exploration of these relations by transforming one form into another.  Rules for combining paper segments have almost a mathematic quality and indeed can be viewed as a precursor to an understanding of combination: e.g. symmetrical halves make a continuous whole, folding-in makes a half while folding-out makes a whole, and so forth.  By allowing your child to explore these concepts in an open-ended medium, you support your child’s ability to understand early math/fractions in a real and enduring way.

Our role in all this paper exploration is to realize the many opportunities there are to invite this type of play. Before you throw out the newspaper or the mail, let your child give it a whirl. Set up some space for the play and figure out what is of most interest. Think of some action that we can do that increases or complicates slightly what our child is doing. As an infant, if our child curves the paper, we curve and then crease the paper.  If our child flaps the paper while holding onto it, we flap the paper and let it go. As they get older and start folding paper to create things, we can start a fold that they can finish; or we can model lining up the edges of the paper in order to fold it in half.

To see a host of paper play ideas, eebee’s adventures has a great paper adventure in its Exploring Real Stuff DVD currently available in stores like giggle or at www.eebee.com.