Observations and arguments.

Archive for November, 2006

A portrait of the toddler as a creative problem solver

Of course the key problem I need to solve creatively for myself is getting a new career.

But tonight, within the context of swirling questions about the boy’s emotional, language, and sensory development, we witnessed an act of clear ingenuity.

For a while now, the boy has enjoyed running the hallway loop while I kneel in the kitchen, juggling three beanbags. He careens gleefully around the corner and runs headlong into me. I drop the balls. We hug. He asks to do it again.

(I will note here that we intend to steer him away from encountering any actual, working jugglers, until he has become bored of this activity.)

Last night, however, he added a new variant to the game, one in which he shuts his eyes as he enters the kitchen, I suppose as a self-administered test of how he perceives distance in relation to his own velocity. Having a parent to crash into provides an excellent and dynamically adjusting safety net at the terminus of the test.

While I can respect the developmental leap he is making by conducting this experiment in the first place, I also know that it’s a really bad idea for anyone–especially a toddler–to be running with their eyes closed.

He ignored our advice to keep his eyes open, of course, so we quickly transitioned to another activity.

Tonight, however, during our contact-juggling routine, he began to experiment once again with shutting his eyes before colliding into me. This time we successfully convinced him of the importance of opening his eyes, in part by quoting Dora the Explorer: “So we can be safe!”

But by the third or fourth time around the loop following this rule, the boy was becoming bored with the activity. He was apparently dissatisfied at not having completed his experiment, but he somehow understood that shutting his eyes was no longer an option.

So he came running around the corner with his head turned 90 degrees to the side.

His eyes remained open, but he couldn’t see where he was going. He could once again run into me and the juggling balls without looking.

Mad. Genius.

I was so impressed by the ingenuity of his workaround that I let him do it a few times more.

Tomorrow night, we’ll change the rule from “Keep your eyes open.” to “Watch where you’re going.”
I am curious to see what he comes up with in response to that.