thinking skills

June 30, 2011

Water Play and Exploration

With summer in full swing, we will all be doing lots of water play over the next few months. Water play and exploration is one of the classic open-ended play experiences that can provide hours and hours of engagement for your baby as they figure out how this stuff called water works. There are lots of ways to make your baby’s time with water a rich experience full of discovery and learning. My company, eebee’s Adventures, is offering a free video download that models lots of great filling and spilling adventures. To download yours (or pass it along to friends) just follow this link: http://eebee.com/waterplay/sk.html

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 can in supplying tools and encouraging play extensions that come to mind based on what interests your child. Over the summer, there will be lots of opportunities

October 15, 2010

Early Logic- “Division” via Tearing Paper

Babies develop early math and numeracy skills by experiencing concrete actions on their world. Take simple paper tearing. One big piece of paper can be torn into 2 pieces, 3, 4, 5 — from the one piece come many pieces—like magic to a baby. We take it for granted but to babies this is exciting stuff. Watch Whitney’s squeal with each additional “division” of paper:

It is these early intuitive experiences with sequence, number & numeracy that provide the foundation for later abstract mathematical symbol systems. It is the same with more and less of stuff; babies notice the difference. More ice cream for the sibling can bring about a temper tantrum. We can help our babies reflect on these logical and numberical aspects of their world by drawing attention to them and narrating a bit as I attempt in the video.

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.

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.