Mar 30, 2009

How Toddlers' Brains Work

I have no background in early education, but still, I think the topic of brain development is fascinating. And this article on how toddlers' brains work actually has some potentially practical applications. I don't know how practicable they are in daily life, but it's interesting to know that my kids don't think ahead yet.

The study found that while 8-year-olds can anticipate the future, 3-year-olds "call up the past as they need it." The example given was telling your 3-year-old to get her jacket because it's cold outside. But the child just stores that information and it doesn't register until she gets outside and feels cold – at which point she'll think, It's cold outside, Mom said I should get my jacket.

The suggestion for handling this situation was to tell the child, "I know you don't want to take your coat now, but when you're standing in the yard shivering later, remember that you can get your coat from your bedroom." Of course, I'm not crazy about the idea of letting the child outside without a jacket to begin with, which is why I question whether this new research can result in ways of communicating that can or will actually be implemented.

But, I think this helps with my biggest frustration – the not listening. Now it (kind of) makes sense that when I told Alex to stop dragging the toe of his shoe on the ground because it was ruining the shoe, he acted as if he hadn't heard and kept doing it. I suppose it would have registered at some future time, when he noticed that there was a hole in his shoe: Oh, that's why Mom told me not to drag my shoe. It's not excusable, of course, but my new understanding of what's going on (or not going on) in his brain will hopefully give me more patience.

Now I just have to figure out how to phrase things so he'll actually process the information on the spot. Is it even possible?


Adam @ Checkbook Diaries said...

I wonder how well this would work with teaching children to save money. Maybe if you can figure out a way to incorporate opportunities for spending for your child throughout the week or month it will click at some point when they don't have enough money for a certain item?

Interesting find.

Jennifer said...

Huh...I'm not sure about that. My three year old was capable of requesting a night light, not telling me why he wanted it, then that night, prance around his room after hours under the newly acquired nightlight, putting books and his little rocking chair into his bed. He seems to be quite capable of foward thinking!

Baker @ Man Vs. Debt said...

My daughter is a couple weeks from her first birthday and I can see the wheel turning. As a first time parent it's amazing to see her actually thinking about decisions she makes. It's almost like you can hear her thinking by looking at her face!

I'm excited for her to grow even more in the next few years, but know it will be even a more scary time!

Keep up the great posts as it helps give a glimpse of what I'm getting myself into!