Your Clever Toddler in Week 73: Understanding the Intentions of Others
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 73
You know what a copycat your toddler is right now. But those skills are even more impressive than you might have realized: By 18 months, when your toddler sees you attempt a task but miss the mark, she will get the gist of what you were intending to do, and mimic that sometimes to perfection.
Let’s say your toddler watches as you make pie dough from scratch for the first time. As you attempt to set your dough in the pie pan, it falls apart. You’re exasperated. The next day as your child is working with play dough, she carefully rolls it out and sets it on a plate.
Here, your child didn’t imitate your failed pie dough effort—her “crust” didn’t crumble. Instead, she understood your intentions and correctly imitated what you had intended to do. (Take some pointers, Mom!)
What the Research Shows
In one clever experiment, researcher Andrew Meltzoff arranged for 18-month-olds to observe an adult repeatedly trying but failing to do the following:
- pull the ends off a wooden dumbbell
- hang a necklace over a wooden cylinder
- stick a tool in a box to push a button and activate a buzzer
The adult then gave the objects to the toddlers to see if they would imitate the actions they had just observed. They did, but with greater success. Though they hadn’t seen the adult succeed at any of the tasks, they didn’t imitate the failed actions but instead carried out the intended ones.
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