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Parenting | Child Development | giggle Blogs - Part 2

Archive: Parenting

July 7, 2010

Toddler Conversations

What kind of conversations are you having with your little one? At the youngest ages, there is amazingly rich non-verbal dialogue but when it comes to talking we adults are doing most of it. Our toddlers do show a distinct progression in how they share their ideas. From one and a half to two yrs, toddlers usually have very simple and isolated ideas. For example, in the video below, Whitney expresses that she would like me to “sit down” next to her while she eats lunch and then tries to communicate that she does not want her usual nap after lunch:

This conversation is characterized by isolated ideas without much fluency and really no narrative at all. Between 2.5 and 3 years, our toddlers begin to connect their isolated islands of understanding into more comprehensive narratives across events and time. These Narratives go further than just words to describe things. Narratives have a dramatic through line with actors who have desires directed toward goals which take place in a context. Below is an example of Whitney’s new ability with conversation and narrative stories:

Whitney was now beginning to understand how one event leads to another (a storm can create a mess); how ideas operate across time (If the mess was created yesterday; today we need to clean it up); and how ideas operate across space (If the street sweeper can clean up the street, it could also clean-up our driveway). Ideas can now be used to explain emotions (I don’t like that noise from the machines; that noise makes me mad) and for logical thinking (that is fantasy instead of reality). This period is a monumental stepping stone toward mature, rational thinking. You can have conversations on just about anything at anytime and anywhere, so engage your toddler and see what they have to say.

June 23, 2010

Backyard Adventures

Last time you were in the backyard or grassy park, what kind of learning adventures did you notice your infants or toddlers undertaking and what did you do to support and extend the experience? There are lots of rich learning explorations to be had in the backyard. Here in the video below, my daughter Whitney found lots of things that peaked her interest for further investigation from flowers and butterflies to bees and clovers:

I tried to encourage her to explore those interests simply by labeling them and then probing with more questions. I also tried to embed some “numeracy” into her clover collecting by supporting her counting skills. Whitney was starting to learn that the order of numbers matters and discovering that the last number tells how many. Notice how when she counts that clovers first by herself she really can’t do it so well but by my helping her lay out the daisies in a row and scaffolding her, she could better exercise her early counting in this meaningful context. For us parents finding ways to embed the learning in everyday fun and meaningful activities is what it is all about. So next time we are out in the backyard, let’s look for all those great opportunities to create richer learning adventures.

June 11, 2010

Baby Jogger Adventures

The recurring idea in my posts is that we can take any old everyday activity or routine and make it a learning adventure for our babies. Take the daily jog. You can’t really get more mundane than that and it is largely an activity for the adult to get exercise. Babies are not doing a whole bunch besides sitting in the jogger seat. So how does this become a learning adventure for a baby? Simple, you narrate the heck out of whatever you encounter along the way. Don’t worry about sounding silly or talking too much, the more the better, click the play button below:

Notice how every step of the jog really is an opportunity for learning– from getting Whitney’s coat, to buckling her buckle, to the seaguls, piers and kayaks we run across while jogging. One small example I would like to point out is “scaffolding” her while she snaps her buckle. At first Whitney cannot get the buckle to snap so she asks me to do it. In these situations we do not think twice about helping out and buckling the buckle for our toddlers but when we do it for our children we deprive them of a learning opportunity and an opportunity to learn that “can-do” disposition for tackling the world. Instead of buckling it for her, I “scaffold” to enable her to do it. It is the simple step of just holding the female part of the buckle steady for her so that she can better direct the buckle into it. This way she learns that she can do it herself; not that she needs to rely on others because she can’t. Again, we as parents should be providing the minimum level of support so that our children can do it themselves and feel that emotion of applying the effort and getting the result they want. This builds the disposition for perseverance and a can-do attitude. Done numerous times a day or week it makes a huge difference.

June 1, 2010

The Hidden Secrets in Water Play

With the arrival of Memorial day and the onset of summer, it is easy to predict that anyone with a baby is going to be doing lots of water play over the next few months (if not already this past weekend). So next time while on duty watching your little one in the pool or at the beach, look for the hidden secrets your child is discovering while exploring water. Those seemingly simple pours or splashes probably involve some serious thinking and problem solving that we adults don’t readily see. And it is a lot of fun to speculate about what is going on inside that little mind.

Take my daughter Whitney at the pool in the videos below, when I slowed down and really observed her play, there were lots of really interesting nuggets of thinking I could notice. This first video shows her transferring water back and forth between cups:

We take for granted the transferability of water. That of course when you pour from one cup to the other, the same amount of water is going to show up in the new cup (eg the law of conservation). However, our little ones do not take this for granted and want to experiment again again to test what will happen.

There is a lot of stuff they find fascinating that we view as trivial. Here a serious interest in “Overflow”:

Of course, we don’t pour additional water into a cup that is full but our toddlers will do it again and again. They are discovering the personality of water. It overflows down the sides when they continue to pour in the cup.

Lastly, what happens when another cup is pushed down instead of another — aha! –Displacement occurs:

While they are running their experiments in understanding water, they are also exercising all sorts of thinking, communication, social & emotional and physical skills. Again, this is how the richest learning works. In the context of figuring out something they care about, and show an interest in, they challenge and exercise all the budding skills of development from the physical skill of twisting their wrists to pour the water to the cognitive skill of trying out, remembering and employing the tactic that delivers the desired result. So try to be as creative as you supplying tools and encouraging play extensions that come to mind based on what interests your child. Over the summer let’s all look at our child’s water play with new lenses

May 19, 2010

Toddler iPad Adventures

To share or not to share that is the question– do we let our little ones get their hands on our new iPad. As you might guess from my previous, Screen-based media (10/28), post I do believe that there is a responsible way to explore almost anything that a baby can get their eyes, ears, nose, or hands on. Tools and devices such as the iPad will be an increasingly important part of our child’s world so why not let them get a jump start if they show an interest. And my daughter Whitney definitely showed an interest in what daddy was doing with that electronic thing in his hands and wanted to get her hands on it. So I downloaded a few Apps targeted at her age & stage and let her have at it. Wow, was I impressed with how quickly Whitney mastered the interface and figured it out. Computers, iPads, mobile devices, DVDs/VOD boxes are truly our children’s machines and I think we need to rethink our ideas about No Use policies with an open mind and creatively figure out the best uses of these machines at each age and stage of development:

The problem solving required to figure out the machine and the Apps on these machines is wonderful. As demonstrated in the video, Whitney quickly figured out the on/off button, the way you finger scroll to get to different Apps, how to stop the scroll and then touch the desired App to launch it. She then quickly mastered the featrues of each App, even how to make it bigger and smaller on the screen (which BTW took me a lot longer to figure out). Our infants and toddlers are not intimidated in the least. They want to jump right in and give it a try. If we provide the minimum support our babies need and scaffold them appropriately for their age and stage, there are no limits to their discovery.

May 12, 2010

Baby in the Kitchen- Mixing and Mashing

After the garden the next step along the food chain is letting a baby help out in the kitchen with the preparation of the meal. Again there are lots of developmentally appropriate ways to get babies involved in the preparation of their meals. We like to say if you can mix, mash, oosh it or goosh it, you can get your baby involved. And once again, mama’s little helper has a much better chance of eating it if she was involved in making it!

Here Whitney gets involved in stirring the batter for a waffle mix:

Mixing not only exercises Whitney’s fine motor skills while controlling the tool and stirring the batter, she is learning lots of vocabulary with the different ingredients of vanilla and cinnamon. She then turns her attention to art and becomes Jackson Pollack with her dripping batter creating circles and other designs. Learning can be taken in so many directions from this simple base and it is easy to follow a child’s lead.

eebee’s Adventures has a book called Mix & Mash Adventures that give lots of ideas for baby friendly recipes and ways to turn toddlers into active helpers in the kitchen. Here is a clip done with Parents TV that shows some of the fun learning opportunities in the kitchen:

May 4, 2010

Baby Gardening Adventures

Just like all the indoor nooks and crannies to explore, there are lots of worlds to explore outside the house as well—take the garden & gardening. It is easy to get babies involved in some developmentally appropriate aspect of the gardening process depending on their age. Having a family vegetable garden is a great long term project with rich learning over lots of years because despite most evidence that food comes from a grocery store, whenever possible creating small gardens will help our children develop a deeper appreciation and relationship with plants, foods, and the elements that go into a meal– the foundations for nutritional intelligence and healthy eating practices.

For the younger set, it does not have to be to complicated. “What’s dirt” is a great adventure for a infant. They love getting their hands in it and discovering the properties of earth. Watch this baby video I found on youtube; the baby is enthralled by exploring the dirt and why he can’t get it off his hands. Wet dirt can be very sticky– she is discovering.

Here is an older toddler, my daughter Whitney, discovering the joys of harvesting the Rosemary:

Lastly, at 2.5 years they can get involved in more complicated tasks for the garden, like painting the square foot gardening box:

Participating in as many aspects of the family garden as possible gives your baby a great start in their relationship with food and eating habits. If they helped make it, there is a much better chance they will eat it!!

April 27, 2010

Exploring the Cabinets

For our babies almost any place and anything around the home is a world to explore– take drawers and cabinets. We have all seen our babies’ beeline for a drawer we just put something away in or the cabinet in the bathroom we just opened. Frequently my initial impulse is to say “no, no” that is not for you. But instead of going with that habitual response, when I can catch myself I say go right ahead; let’s explore this place and these things together. In fact when we do there are a lot of neat things to discover. The video below shows how a quick tour through the bathroom sink cabinet yields a bounty of learning and development with language, thinking and problem solving, and social interaction. Click to view:

This cabinet has a foot scrapper, and clothing iron, hair curls and more interesting stuff for Whitney. Now if  this stuff was hot like the clothing iron and the hair curls these are a no-no but while cold in the cabinet why not explore them. The clothing iron has a container for water, a button to press and a cool control knob to turn. Whitney exercises her problem solving skills in figuring out how these features work. She exercises her language skills as she finds the vocabulary to use for the “wa-wa” container. She exercises her social skills looking to me for approval and emotional support for her forays while I still nervously say “no-no” eventhough cold in the cabinet it is all safe for her exploration. And then she finishes with a flurry of door closing as she reveals her understanding of what happens when we are all done.  See these simple little ordinary moments can be quite the Learning Adventure. Eebee’s DVD episode Little Objects, Big Ideas is all about turning these everyday things into rich learning explorations.

These opportunities for learning adventures happen throughout the day in all sorts of settings. Reading the Who’s Your Daddy post titled Explore Your World reminded me that there are an almost infinite amount of opportunities to dive in and explore things around the house or as his post suggests around the neighborhood as well.  We parents just need to slow down, use a new lens to see all these opportunities and then jump right in with our babies.

April 19, 2010

Thinking- Ages & Stages

We have all wondered from time to time– what is going on inside that little head of my baby. Well, that rapidly changes from stage to stage. The foundations for thinking skills start very early. Even though for the first three months babies sleep most of the time and periods of alertness are brief, babies can attend to the world in an organized way. They demonstrate selective focusing of their attention and preferences for certain stimuli like faces and mother’s voice but have no clue that the hand that just passed their eyes belongs to them. Their mind is a world of feelings and a unified state of being either comfortable or upset. When comfortable they will attend to and learn about the world through their five senses.  Whitney used to love her bouncy seat with things hanging in front of her; We would try to vary the items on her bar so she could notice differences in what was displayed.

Calm Alert State

We adults want to help them obtain the calm alert state by meeting their basic needs and making sure they are not over stimulated. Learning to read our babies for cues to over stimulation is key during this period. As our babies’ day-to-day experiences accumulate, they begin to notice patterns in their world. They learn that if they cry, someone will respond. They learn that kicking your feet can make a sound from a certain dangling toy on their bouncy seat. From there, they begin to organize and integrate the world into spatial and sequential categories. By twelve months old, infants are even learning to string together two to three steps to solve a problem, such as retrieving a toy that’s out of reach and hidden under another object. This reveals important learning. They can hold a mental image of the toy that is out of sight; realize that the toy exists even though it cannot be seen; figure out a way or ways to retrieve the toy; and perhaps to recall ways that s/he found a hidden object in the past and to repeat that strategy now.

Toddlers experience a dramatic change in mobility—combined with viewing things from new vantage points – offering new perspectives, challenges and frustrations.  children begin to make comparisons between groups of things, able to make comparisons between the qualities of objects, such as size, shape, color and function, putting things together in like groups. For instance, when putting toys away, your child may create a collection of balls and another collection of blocks. We want to expose our toddlers to the full range of things, animals and people in their world. The more hands on exploration of the world they can get the better their foundation of experiences with and understanding of the vast diversity of objects and life.

By 2 years old, our babies demonstrate an expanded memory for the scripts of daily life, have spatial maps of their world and reason through situations and problems. Their increasing ability to form mental representations supports language development as well as pretend play.  Your young toddler can be exhilarated by his many discoveries. And by three, they demonstrate a vastly increased repertoire of symbols to represent ideas and images as they enter the world of imagination and can manipulate and transform these images in their minds. We want to support their budding narratives by encouraging them to tell their stories and to recount as many adventures as they are willing. These representations and mental exercise is the foundation for their future logic and reason.

April 2, 2010

Thinking Skills- Cognitive Development

Consider the cognitive difference between a reflex-driven newborn; a 12 month old who can control his attention & memory capable of action oriented problem solving; a 2 yr old with tentative mental models of daily events and conceptual discoveries of how things work; to a 3 year old with a vast repertoire of symbols to represent ideas and images and to manipulate them in mind as they enter the world of imagination. Picturing these transformations reminds us of just how amazing these developments are and leave us wondering how does it all happen and what is the best possible support we can provide.

Early experiences provide the raw materials for the construction of these competences. As trivial as any one experience might seem it is interacting with you and objects like the Blanky, the stroller toy, stacking toys, ball play, block play and light & shadow play– everyday explorations– where our babies transform genetic potentials into actual cognitive skills and competences. It does not happen through just maturation the environments and experiences we enable make a big difference for our child’s individual development

The 21st century will put increased demands on the ability to perceive and interpret patterns. Reading and communicating about visual imagery is essential in modern careers from analyzing MRI and Ultrasound patterns, to noticing discrepant patterns in the cosmos, and reading how cells interact with various proteins, for just a few examples. These important skills have their beginnings in early infancy as children learn to discern different facial features, navigate spaces, and distinguish colors and so forth.

Thinking skills, cognitive development, occur as babies engage in the world, exercise, and build upon their inborn capacitites. Review the many blog posts describing how our babies explore their real world of everyday objects; in next post we will discuss more about how thinking skills develop from everyday play and explorations.