Your Clever Toddler in Week 84: Intervening in the World Efficiently
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 84
As a parent, you never fail to fascinate your toddler. By now you’ve watched your child’s attempts to imitate your actions and even read your mind (by studying the things that capture your attention and completing the tasks you fail to finish) as you interact with objects and people.
These days, your child is looking to you for examples of how best to move throughout the world—and she’s aware of inconsistencies in your behavior. For example, if you used a pencil to push the buttons on your TV’s remote control, your child would want to know why you weren’t using your thumb as usual.
Let’s see how toddlers combine their interest in copying behavior with their desire to know how to intervene with the new stuff they encounter every day.
What the Research Shows
Remember the research situation from Week 61 where the 14-month-olds remembered and copied the researcher who banged his head on a panel which then lit up? Well, in this study with 18-month-olds, there was a slightly different take on this same situation.
First, a researcher banged his head on a box, which lit up. In reaction, the toddlers copied his actions exactly. Then the researcher’s arms were wrapped in a blanket as he banged his head on a box. In this situation, the children didn’t copy the researcher, but instead hit the box with their hands to get it to light up. It was as if the children knew that the experimenter would use his hands if he could, but since they were wrapped in a blanket he had to use his head. Since the children’s arms weren’t wrapped—they had their arms available to bang on the box and have it light up—they used the more obvious, more efficient part of their body for this task: their hands. Inherently, each child’s life experiences thus far had influenced his behavior in such a way that he knew that hands, not heads, made for more effective tools.
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