Guide Me Gently

   Written by on August 4, 2016 at 10:02 am

logo-wee-notesWhen you learn something new, do you feel a sense of anxiety?  Do you find yourself hoping you won’t be asked to help demonstrate a new skill?  Do you tend to shrink behind someone in front of you in the hope that you won’t be called upon?

That is a fairly typical reaction when new information is introduced, especially in a group.  Let us put a young child in the hot seat when learning a new skill.  Let’s take learning how to put the pieces of a puzzle together as an example.  An 18-month-old child should be able to begin the process if she has been given lots of opportunities to develop those fine motor skills necessary for the task.

Think first about what generally happens.  A parent dumps the pieces of the puzzle onto the floor and tells the child to put the puzzle back together.  The toddler will likely pick up (touch) a stray puzzle piece and taste it.  The adult will probably tell the baby not to put the puzzle into her mouth.  The adult has just removed one of the baby’s first means of learning about her world, the sense of taste.

Should the adult pick up a puzzle piece and place it in the correct space, the baby may even watch this action (sight).  What happens next may be that the wee one will attempt to place a puzzle piece into the frame.  The adult will probably say, “No.  Turn it around.”  If the baby has any understanding of those words (hearing), it likely concerns spinning herself in a circular motion.

As you can see, something as simple (to us) as placing four puzzle pieces into four puzzle openings can be very troubling for a toddler with limited vocabulary and motor skills.  To make learning a new skill less intimidating, be sure to think ahead.  Show your baby the puzzle.  Talk about it with the baby.  Allow the baby to mouth the puzzle piece pointing out that it isn’t good to eat.

Use simple terms your baby is more likely to recognize (i.e. “I see a red apple.  Look, your dress is red, too”.).  If you have one, show your wee one a real red apple.  Let her take the pieces of the puzzle out of the frame.  Demonstrate how to place the apple shape into the correct space.  Talk about how you had to “turn it just so to make it fit”.

Remember to be patient as she manipulates the pieces and give quiet encouragement.  Should she become frustrated, put the puzzle away and try again later.  The goal is for the child to learn spatial relationships, colors, names of fruits, terminology, etc. and to enjoy the experience, more so than how to actually work the puzzle.  That skill will come as she gets more adept with those little finger muscles.  Tell her she worked hard and you will try again another time.  This is much more important than insisting that she get the puzzle together the first time.

Now, slice that yummy red apple and enjoy a snack with your smart baby.                

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