What do we know?

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Here are more concepts in research that add significant dimensions, good direction and scope useful to the "good play" curriculum model. A philosophical direction is necessary so that consensus can at least guide the curriculum's evolution.

Infants and toddlers are motivated by movement - ceaseless motion from in-utero onward. They direct their energies in order to develop voluntary control of body and brain. They do several things at once. Toddlers are capable of shifting and transferring energy from one source of mobility to another. For example, a toddler that is using a high energy level learning to walk, may reduce her level of vocalization in favor of concentrating on movement. Thus toddlers in the second year have spurts and regressions, experience shifts upwards and downwards across physical, as well as emotional behaviors. Toddlers also shift between polar opposites during the years from one to three. They can be aggressive and regressive in their responses and learned behaviors as well as demonstrate other forms of oppositional - dichotomous activities. They alternately push-pull; up-down; in-out; yes-no.

Where play objects "reside" or are housed seems to influence the use of the object. One structural relationship that matters to toddlers is between a container and objects contained within it. In the second year of life, toddlers seem to become more and more motivated to play when they concentrate on the container side of the relationship, rather than on the objects that are being contained.

For example, at 16 months, Jennifer locates small metal pieces, picks them up, and puts them into containers. By 19 months, she is more intent upon arranging several containers, looking inside, and play with the containers, instead of the pieces. She groups containers in stacks, rows, on the table, under the table. By 22 months, the number of containers of interest is reduced and she plays longer with fewer objects. This reduction indicates an increase in complexity, while at the same time reducing variability.

For the toddler with visual/multiple handicaps, the structural relationship between container and contained is not an evolving process. It needs to be "taught", as a function of similarity of containers and the discriminating features among them. The objectified use of "containment", therefore, becomes less significant to the active search for and discovery of containers.

Ask Dr. Susan