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How Children Tell Us How They Think Before They Have the Language to Express Thought and Feeling

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How do infants and young children develop mental and emotional thought? What play objects and experiences help us as teachers and parents to observe the personalities, talents, and emotional lives of infants, toddlers, and children-all children including those children with language delays? This article is a guide to researched and tested language activities, brain games, and inventive and preverbal play, which can inform adults about how children think before they acquire language and the ability to express their thoughts and feelings.

Infants and toddlers are my favorite people. They are born with many abilities they are smart and confident right from birth. This session is a guide to infant and toddler development and the mental and emotional games babies play. You can see for yourself how play activities and every day routines are used by infants to develop thinking skills and abilities.

It’s amazing how very young children use looking, listening and grasping at objects to show mental ability. Babies and toddlers use their bodies and their brains to think. Watch these infants show how they actually think.

Infants and older babies come equipped with experiences and genetics already in place, solving the problem of which comes first and which is more important; ask why children don’t talk from birth, what do they do instead? Show how this early learning occurs with songs, games and dolls.

Model songs and games-Let’s start with: “Head shoulders knees and toes knees and toes head and shoulder knees and toes knees and toes and head and eyed and ears and nose, head shoulders knees and toes knees and toes.” Let’s get our hands up and pretend that were holding a baby in our arms and this song is called, “Ms. Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, silk, so she called for the doctor to come quick, quick, quick!” “The doctor came with his hat and his bag and he knocked on the door with a rap tap tap. He looked at the dolly and he shook his head,he said, Ms. Polly put her straight to bed he rolled on a paper for a pill, pill, pill. I’ll be back in the morning with my bill, bill, bill.”

“Open shut them open shut the, give a little mouth and do not let the in.”

Jack in the box is a perfect song-speak activity for toddlers and babies. “Jack is hiding down in his box until somebody opens the lid pop.”

Perfect, “Row, row, and row your boat gently down the stream merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.”

Or use toys that make sounds and use sounds that vary in tone and pitch that go up and down such as: “Put your hands up high; put your hands down low, up, down, high, and low.” Three play games that change position lay your baby on her back and sing: “ride, ride, ride on the bicycle, ride, ride, ride on the bicycle, ride, ride, ride on the bicycle ride on the bicycle, ride, ride, ride.”

Songs help infants and toddlers show exactly where and how their curiosity  is directed. Which stimuli may attract them? How are they as unique persons, learning to express themselves best? Mention how preverbal child development knowledge is gained through observation; how much information is learned on the job, reading, going to workshops, issues and concerns parents bring to teachers? Take comments; pass out observation sheets; demo “Did you know that…? SEE. HEAR. WRITE what observers see and hear; start infant social development and language videos.

Talk, talk, talk. Your child is learning how to take turns listening and talking through social play. Repeat back sounds and words babies make when adults reproduce infant vocalizations babies engage in thought provoking actions and reactions. Encourage babies to locate sources of sound and work with bright colorful objects to stimulate visual search and good looking. Hand off toys to infants from the middle of his body and offer two objects at once. Even babies can learn to make choices and should have some control over their activities. Parents can fit exercise and mental activity right into diaper changing.

Pass out cloth dolls to decorate in their own image or a child-like image and give the dolls names, clothes and personalities; put up the overhead and wall chart of handouts, “healthy personalities in infancy” Thomas and Chess (1977) Personality Traits one for children, another for infants and (different examples on each); discuss traits as stable and the continuity of temperament throughout childhood; play with the dolls, think up age-related actions and verbalizations that show temperamental traits.

Present tables of toys that teach and toys that help adults understand how children think and feel. Pass out developmental traits handouts (“Accelerated learning in infancy,” “How smart are toddlers?”’ “Ages and Stages of Children 0-7 and 8 years, “chart of developmental knowledge 0-5); arrange pairs to “talk to babies and toddlers” in conversational tones, hold infant talk conversations; switch from baby talk to active play; put up a wall chart and overhead of accelerated techniques for discovery of how infants think and feel.

All infants are in constant motion. Children repeat movements that feel good to them and these pleasant actions help them to feel secure. Even babies as young as 14 weeks are capable of using their reflexes to pay attention to objects and to figure out how to control their movements voluntarily.

Watch the child repeatedly look at their two out-stretched hands. They are  concentrating on eye movements to obtain an object (the cloth baby) that they enjoy and want. They stare and move all extremities at the same time. Babies like to use many positions and all their extremities at the same time. Babies like to use many positions and all their extremities simultaneously, in order to help get what they want and to lock in and remember important people and specific objects in their world.

Adult caregivers of infants should remember to choose activities because of the child’s interest not the adults. The best activities and exercises are the ones that both adult and baby enjoy as play and the chance to stay close. Children this age like to stay close and cooperate, if you can believe that they think about ways to do that, they really do.

  • Thoughtful actions and expressions, pleasurable actions, two at a time
  • Food, warmth; changes in light and temperature and air conditions produce pleasurable and secure feelings
  • Preverbal sounds and tones indicate purposeful choices, demands, and knowledge that language can help them regulate their world, adults are play objects, toddlers are self-producers of their own development
  • Actions on objects create an objectified view of the world: seriation, construction, perceptual, sensory, discovery
  • Actions on objects create an objectified view of the world: seriation, construction, perceptual, sensory, discovery

Infants are interested in similarities, differences and sociability. Infants can also feel all the emotions of sad, mad, hungry, lonely, depression.

Babies like attachment better than separation. Separation is a hard fact of life for infants and toddlers to be in. Attachment is their way of learning trust and security. Babies have a sens of attachment  dependency toward primary care givers. Infants have preferences, likes and dislikes that indicate how they think.

Infants after a few months use a complete range of speech sounds-from appropriate vowels to cooing and vocal play. They are natural actors, as they raise voices, lowering voices as they alternately demand or comply. Thay are true communicators, making utterances and vocal play which are understandable.

Infants and toddlers intellectually make choices and sort objects, even ncover hidden objects in the middle part of the first year of life. This milestone indicates knowledge of permanency and consistency.

Ask Dr. Susan