09 August 2012

What I Learned about Learning While Watching My 16-month-old Investigate a Jewelry Box

While standing on a chair and watching cars go by, my boy spotted my jewelry box, the kind with five little drawers and a tall necklace-hanging 'closet' (cubby?) on top of my dresser. Something about it must have intrigued him (the tiny knobs? all the tiny drawers?), because when I looked back, he was reeeeeaching up with all his might to open one of the drawers. It didn't have much jewelry in it (procrastinators of the world unite!...tomorrow), so I set it on the floor for J1to investigate. He investigated for 30 minutes solid.

What I Learned about Learning While Watching My 16-month-old Explore a Jewelry Box
1. Find something that intrigues you. J1 spotted my jewelry box and something about it made him want more.
2. Take your time. J1 looked in a drawer first, then in the hanging necklaces cubby, and so on. He was not in a rush to take the whole thing in at once.
3. Repeat. Review, review, review. After looking in a drawer, he looked in the necklaces cubby. Then he returned to the drawer. Then back to the necklaces cubby. This time he opened and closed the door several times.
4. Cycle back and observe again. Each time he repeated an action--opening the necklaces cubby, for example--he investigated something new. He touched the hinges, or looked at the decoration on the glass in the door, or the way the handle was attached. Then he would return his attention to a drawer, opening and closing it, fingering the knobs, sliding them in fast or slow. He paid attention to the whole jewelry cabinet but moved from one aspect to another.
5. Take your time. The whole investigation took 30 minutes, and I finally interrupted him because he was needing his am nap. How long would he have gone without my intervention?
6. Enjoy yourself. I didn't make J1 explore the jewelry cabinet. Something about it caught him and he wanted to explore.
7. Take a break. Pacing is vital. J1 self-paced...he looked at the patten on the floor then opened a drawer. He cuddled up to me then opened up another drawer. He walked away to the closet (familiar territory) then returned to his investigation.
8. Take your time. I had to pull him away when he was getting overstimulated. As he grows older, I'll teach him to observe himself as well and to pull himself away so he can pace himself and rest his neural pathways.
9. Invest time in transition. Change gears slowly! I pulled him away and put him pretty much right into his crib for a nap. This caused frustrated crying. In hindsight, I should have done some sort of changing-pace activity--sitting and reminiscing with him about the jewelry cabinet, reading a book with him--but I made a mistake. I'll do better next time.