Reading an Infant's Expressions

Feelings can come or go with explosive suddenness, or they may gradually fade in or out. The experience of a feeling may be only momentary, or last for some time. These powerful inner sensations are invisible events. Unlike older children and adults, infants are not yet able to verbally communicate their inner feelings.


Pencil Sharpeners

If you take a moment to watch children investigate a pencil sharpener you’ll soon realize that it is indeed a very complex machine. How does it work? Which way do you turn it to sharpen a pencil? And what happens when you turn it the other way? What is creating all of the wood shavings? Why are some shavings shaped like curly cues and others like tiny bits? What does the pencil sharpener do to the pencil?


Infants' Love of Faces

Infants are fascinated with the human face. Two eyes, a nose, and a mouth cause infants to stare, and later, to touch and grasp. Parents often allow infants to probe, pull, and pinch their faces. Surely, these are joyful experiences for all involved. Intimate face-to-face exchanges also help form the foundation of social interactions.


Ben Shoots Pool

This videative shows how two-year-old Ben and his father invent challenging ways to get a billiard ball into the pocket. The series of video clips illustrate the powerful role of a responsive and age-appropriate environment for guiding play. They tell the delightful story of how a child's natural desire to explore and invent can be the catalyst for rich problem solving and learning about inclines, speed, angles, and direction.


Grandma's Elevator

Blocks are excellent tools for open-ended construction that can serve as props for invented stories. Children can work alone or with others. Often their invented stories motivate and guide their constructions. In this videative, two boys, Andrew and Edward, have different orientations to block play. Edward wants to arrange the blocks as props to support his story about grandma's elevator, including grandma herself (the column block). Andrew seems more interested in making spatial motifs, such as a triangle on top of every column.


Puzzle Persistence

Four-year-old Nathaniel works diligently to fit vehicle-shaped pieces into a puzzle form board that makes matching noises when a piece is fully seated. Occasionally he orients a piece incorrectly and struggles to complete the fit. Nevertheless, one can take note of the number of clever strategies he uses to reduce his frustration or the difficulty of the puzzle.

On several occasions, when he gets stuck on one piece, Nathaniel unseats and reseats another piece previously placed. This "success" seems to restore his confidence and willingness to attack the troublesome piece.


Cheers for Chaislyn!

Chaislyn, a self-directed and animated four-year-old, invites her teacher to share some pretend-play props such as ketchup bottles and cups. Chaislyn pretends to use the props according to their function. She indicates to the teacher that the function is not determined by the object's color. Then a "toasting" game begins. We watch in amazement as Chaislyn uses her own arm to re-enact the interlocking elbows toast so that she can better understand how it is done with another person. Children often re-enact a witnessed event in order to debug the steps that created the event.


Emphasizing Effects

A boy (in yellow) and a girl (in white), each two years of age, are playing with small toy cars on a raised platform. George, a visiting adult, enters the game. During this episode, George looks for opportunities to increase the complexity of the children’s play. He is careful not to voice the details of his own actions, but instead describes only the effects, e.g. "That time they did not spin around." Highlighting these visible effects causes the children to invent their own strategies to recreate the effects themselves.


Animal Train

Two children, two years of age, play with blocks and small plastic animals. With Tucker’s help, Ayla places animals on a train that is going "to the office." George, the adult, occasionally poses a question or suggests an alternative placement. He asks Ayla, "Well, so you don't want me to put it (horse) over here?" as he slowly moves a horse to another block. Ayla explains, "No, this goes right there. The horsie eats hay." She repositions the horse near a raised block that looks like a hay trough.


Grasping Glasses

We know infants enjoy grasping and mouthing objects of many different kinds. Typically, these items are inviting toys provided by parents and teachers. Infants probably have more ideas for playing with these toys than they are able to put into action. For example, if they are on their tummies using their hands pressed on the floor in order to hold their heads up, it is hard to reach out for an interesting object.



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