Your Clever Toddler in Week 68: Why Experimenting Leads to Learning
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 68
Playtime comes with its own grunts of frustration and squeals of pleasure these days, and often from your child’s attempts at completing a single task. You may notice that one day your toddler doesn’t know how something works, and then sometime later, to your surprise, he will have figured it out all on his own.
While it’s tempting to swoop into such situations, demonstrating to your child the “right” solution, there’s much to be said for sitting back and allowing the developmental light bulb to go off as she figures out how to do things on her own.
What the Research Shows
In a lab, researchers offered children a stacking toy to play with: The toy was made up of rings of graduated sizes that fit over a center post. One of the rings had its hole taped so that it couldn’t slip onto the center post. The 15-month-olds in the study would try again and again to place the taped-over ring onto the post, finally giving up.
The 18-month-olds in the study would stack all the other rings, then hold up the taped ring as if to say, “This sure won’t work like the others.” At this age, the toddlers could accurately predict that the taped ring wouldn’t be usable, so instead tossed it aside. Isn’t it incredible what a difference three months makes?
Week 68 Brain Booster
As your child becomes more competent managing his environment, he’ll realize that water won’t run from the faucet until you turn it on. He’ll see that in order for ice to fall from the refrigerator door, he needs to push the lever. Your toddler has been guessing and testing how things work for some time now, but he still needs more opportunities to experiment safely around the house.
Of course, it may be hard to stand by and let your child work through everyday quandaries. One mom reports that at 15 months, her toddler was regularly frustrated as she tried to retrieve items from inside her sister’s dollhouse. Even though her hand didn’t fit through the windows, she’d try to stick her fingers and fist in over and over to grab objects inside, to no avail. At 18 months, though, she’d figured it out: Using one hand to open and prop the roof, she’d use the other to retrieve the small toys inside. Success!
Sure, this mom could have shown her daughter several ways to get at those dollhouse accessories. But being given the solution wouldn’t have been nearly as fundamentally important as her figuring one out for herself. The bottom line is this: While sometimes it’s appropriate to teach, train, and guide young children, right now it can be more gratifying for kids to discover how physical objects work all on their own. If your toddler is struggling but safe, take a deep breath, step back, and watch as his or her sleuthing skills unfold.
Coming soon, look forward to: Week 69: Copying Behavior from the TV Screen
Review the most recent accomplishments: Week 67: Guessing (and Testing!) How Things Work
Curious about how else your toddler might be developing right now? Learn more about her clever brain and her growing body here:
- What’s happening in Month 16?
- Here’s what our pediatrician says you might be worried about this month.
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