Sunday, September 13, 2009

Competent and Capable Babies

Active play teaches our baby that he is competent and capable. If we direct our baby’s play, our baby will become a passive bystander. On the other hand, if we allow our baby to organize and direct his own play (and we become the very interested audience and safety watchman!) he will learn that he is an amazingly skillful person. He will learn that he is capable of creating imaginative works of play and capable of engaging and directing us in social interactions. When you interact with your baby in this way, he will have confidence in his own skills and the ability to take on whatever life offers in the future.

Here are two sample parent-child interactions. Which parent is more like you? Which one would you like to be?

Susie is 10 months old. She has just been given a set of beautiful alphabet blocks. Susie takes a block in each hand and knocks them together. She scoots across the living room floor with a block in each hand dropping the blocks along the way. She pulls herself up to standing on the couch.

Parent A: Mom picks Susie up and places her back in the pile of beautiful blocks. “See the pretty blocks? Can you build a tall tower?” Mom builds a tall tower as Susie looks on. Susie swipes at the blocks. Mom steadies the tower. “No, no, Susie. See. Put one block on top of another.” Susie puts one block on top of mom’s tower, knocking the tower down. “Oops we have to be careful”, says mom as she gently moves Susie aside and starts to build the tower again. Susie sits passively for a while and then scoots away from the block activity.

Parent B: Mom retrieves a small handful of blocks. She places them on the floor near Susie. Susie moves around the sofa and steps on a block. Mom looks surprised and Susie looks to mom before reaching down to pick up a block and hand it to her mother. “Oh thank-you!” mom says. Mom places the block further down the sofa and looks at Susie expectantly. Susie smiles back at mom and searches for another block. She stoops to retrieve it and quickly rights herself moving with the support of the sofa to mom. She hands the block to mom and mom thanks Susie, putting the block on top of the other block. The third time this happens, the block tower tumbles over. Mom laughs and Susie laughs. Susie picks up two blocks and tries to build a tower. Mom steadies the blocks. When Susie has finished the two-block tower, mom removes her hand and Susie swipes at the blocks, knocking the tower down. Susie giggles and looks at mom. “You knocked them down!” says mom as she gives Susie a hug and a tickle.

Your own little Susie will become a more self-directed learner if you can be more like parent B.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

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