The embodied infant learning through experience

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 

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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.  

Toddler skittles 2_1.jpg   Toddler skittles 5_1.jpg   Toddler skittles 7_1.jpg  

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. 

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