developmental skills

February 28, 2011

The Strength of Group Play

Last week we discussed the “tiger mom” parenting debate and my mantra was:
“The key to parenting best practices is to tune into your child’s unique mind and profile of strengths and help them become who they truly are. Assume their mind and profile is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Our job as parents and educators is to bring out those brilliant gifts by finding great ways to engage that mind in meaningful ways — with activities, projects, and education that challenge and cultivate that richness.”

I realize that it is easier said then done. How do we actually identify and engage our child’s uniqueness.

One simple observation is that we see our child’s strengths by comparing and contrasting their behaviors to what other kids are doing around their age & stage. Sports is a great example, I had no clue about my son’s athletic and soccer skills until he joined a soccer team and I saw him playing with others. Watching him play in the backyard alone was not nearly as helpful as seeing him play in a context with others his age.

I know that it is politically correct these days to say we never want to compare our kids to others and I do understand the downside risk of comparing motivated by a desire to brag about our child or to satisfy our own pride of raising the “best” kids. Instead we want to be motivated by a chance to really get to know our own child better. The simple fact is that every child is unique and they give off signals all the time about what makes them so. Group settings help us see those signals more clearly. We want to expose our kids to a diverse range of activities so that we can actually see what most interests them, heightens their joy and draws out their skills and lets them shine.

September 28, 2010

Early Logic Adventures- Figuring things out

Once our babies start to sit up, this milestone opens a whole new range of exploration. Their hands free up and whatever they can get them on, they want to explore and manipulate. Here Whitney, gets her hands on one of Dad’s shoes — grabbing the shoelace, bringing it to her mouth, flapping it around, tugging on it til the shoe moves. These explorations help her “figure out” the shoe or any object for that matter:

As mentioned last post, one of the first steps in the development in logic is a baby’s realization that he or she can make something happen. As our babies’ day-to-day experiences accumulate, they begin to notice patterns in their world. They begin to organize and integrate the world into spatial and sequential categories. They explore the features of different objects and learn to “figure things out” — what makes a shoe a shoe, a ball a ball, etc. Bring a bunch of varied objects into their reach and enjoy the show.

September 8, 2010

Early Logic Adventures- Making things happen

Our little ones don’t start their logic careers with the 123s, shapes, and colors: instead, they figure out that when they do something, it can make something else happen in the world. So if they give you a big smile, you will give them a big smile back. This is early cause and effect and babies are discovering this by 3 months of age. They are learning this across all aspects of their life. When in a crib or on a playmat, if they kick the bell it will make a sound. In the video below, my daughter Whitney, discovers that when she makes her legs hit the ball it moves and makes a sound:

By three months, our babies demonstrate that they can remember that they know that doing one thing makes another thing happen and show that they can make it happen–again and again. With Whitney’s ability to coordinate vision, reaching and kicking, something even more dramatic is happening to her mind. She is learning that she can make interesting things happen AND can remember them for short periods of time! Coordinating eye, hand and foot movement is a remarkable achievement but it is the feeling of mastery at making things work that truly promotes our babies’ conceptual and logical development. The more opportunities we offer that enable them to “make things happen”, the stronger this critical foundation for logic and learning.

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.