Four important ideas we can all agree on
1 Infants and toddlers learn to move and interact with their environment through experience: what they learn and how fast they learn is influenced by the interaction between factors situated within the infant (physical and psychosocial ) and the opportunities for learning provided by the social and physical environment.
2 For any given task or activity an infant's abilities and motor behavior can only be understood by considering the interplay between the child, the task and the environment
3 Learning occurs when the infant is interested, motivated and engaged. It is an active process of exploration of options for achieving a goal.
4 Learning is task specific: we learn what we practice.
5 Infant and toddler learning is a progressive process - new abilities expand and elaborate on established task specific abilities and knowledge.
Max explores a side arm throw
Lost in translation
Lets consider how the following, and similar, questions neglects these principles: "What are your favorite activities for a toddler toddler with poor ball skills?"
My response to this question is: That depends on my assessment of the child's ball handling abilities, progressing from the simplest tasks of intercepting a rolled ball and throwing a ball at a large target.
Ball activities require visual pickup of information from the environment for planning actions, as well as sustained attention for staying on task. So I am also interested in how I can best structure the social environment to promote visual attention as well as sustained engagement in the task.
Another aspect of my assessment would be exploring how I can structure my session with the child to allow them choices to enhance their sense of having some control over their own actions. Just allowing a child to decide between a yellow and a blue ball can make a difference.
Max knocking over skittles
Max understands the task, waits for me to position the bottles, leans forward to align the ball with the bottles and throws.
Task and environment selection, adaptation and progression
By carefully analyzing all the factors that affect child's ability to perform ball related activities using a task-child-environment approach, I can select activities that are appropriate and adapt the tasks and environment to allow the child to succeed.
In this way I know that I am making the most effective use of the time I share with the child or children, and that I am able to progressively adapt the tasks to improve the child's ball handling abilities.