Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thinking Thursday: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler

What distinguishes a baby from a toddler? A toddler from a preschooler? These are the hard-hitting questions on Sammi's mind these days. We have spent hours talking about every child she knows from newborn up to 5 year olds in depth so she can figure out which group they belong to. This has been a challenge for me, too. While it's easy to say that a baby becomes a toddler when they begin to walk, it's much harder to define the cutoff between toddler and preschooler.
It's been a fascinating process, though, watching Sammi come up with all kinds of rules about why some friends are toddlers and other friends are preschoolers and why her sister is a baby. One of my favorites was when she asked if Suede (her 2-year-old gal pal) was a toddler because she's shorter than Sammi. This strikes me as funny because most of the preschoolers she's played with are also shorter than her {she is in the 99th % for height} so it's not a valid guide.
She runs through the categories and her friends over and over again approaching each child and their category from every angle trying to make sure she really understands why this child is in this category. We talk about age, height, diapers vs. underwear, talking.

Category development begins in infants as they associate events and objects with repeated exposure. At first the categories are very simple: animals, cars, people I know, strangers.But as these categories become more established, toddlers are able to ad more detail to the categories and subdivide them into relate groups: animals becomes dogs, cats, cows, birds, fish. Sammi's at a fun stage where she is no longer passively learning the rules for different categories but is pushing the limits and asking questions to find out who fits in which category and why.

Categories help children learn information. As new information is presented, it's easier to process and remember if the child has old info to connect the new info to. The more we talk about these categories, the firmer they become established for our children, building for them a solid framework that will capture, connect and hold new information.

2 comments:

Passey said...

I like this one. Sammi really does try to figure out who is what. Tonight she was very insistent that she was not a toddler. I now know why!

Rebecca is Thrilled by the Thought said...

Your daughter's musings are really cute! It's fun to watch categories expand. My toddler (I think Sammi would even agree she is a toddler) is starting to learn that there are different kinds of birds-seagulls, pigeons, parrots. It's fun to watch her add more vocabulary and understanding to her world!

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