Your Baby: The Active Participant
Babies are the most eager, earnest and efficient learners you will ever meet. They want to roll over so they can sit up, so they can get up on their feet, so they can walk. They notice that when they cry, you come to provide comfort, so they quickly add this type of crying to their repertoire of conscious communication tools. Their ability to learn new skills, notice connections and solve problems is truly amazing.
The view of the baby as an active participant in his world was first championed by Jean Piaget, the preeminent developmental psychologist. Piaget was a diligent observer of children. From these observations, he constructed a model that placed the child at the heart of learning. In Piaget’s view, the child is an actively engaged participant who creates beliefs about the world by interacting with it. Learning takes place as the child adapts to new things.
When you watch your baby closely, you can see him progress through various stages of interaction in an ever widening circle of exploration.
• From birth through the end of the second month: Exploration focuses on a child’s physical sensations. Your baby discovers things by examining how the world affects his body – if he sucks his thumb it feels good, when he eats he feels comfortable.
• At around three months: About the same time that a child begins to grasp things, exploration shifts away from the body to the external world. Your baby begins to understand the rudiments of the relationship between cause and effect – when the rattle is in his hand, it makes a great sound.
• At around nine months: As his capacity to store memories grows, your child’s active exploration of his environment grows as well. He begins to consciously test what effect his actions will carry. Your baby, in other words, becomes a physicist – asking what happens when he drops his toy, climbs the chair or throws a fit.