Your Clever Toddler in Week 59: The Onset of Peer Influence
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 59
You’re in the kitchen cooking when your toddler picks up a stepstool, lugs it to the bathroom, and climbs on it to wash his hands. The thing is, he’s never done this before—and you’ve never showed him how. So where did he get this idea?
He might be imitating the behavior of a friend from daycare or a young cousin from a recent week-long family visit. Most parents associate peer pressure with teenagers, but around 14 months, the drive within children to copy behaviors displayed by kids their own age really takes hold!
What the Research Shows
In a series of trials, researchers trained 14-month-old children to play with five unusual toys. Then they drove these newly skilled players to childcare centers, where the toddlers demonstrated their toy-playing skills to same-aged children who had no experience with these particular toys. The onlookers watching the demonstration were not allowed to touch the toys.
After a two-day delay, a new researcher brought the same unusual toys to each of the onlookers’ homes and laid them out on a table or floor. The children who had only watched the toys being played with showed significant imitation of their use. This study established that 14-month-olds readily imitate actions they see performed by peers in a childcare setting, and that they indeed bring those lessons home with them—even after some time has passed since their original learning sessions.
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