So I’ve been watching my almost-ten-month-old daughter interacting with the world lately and thinking about how much she’s like a little scientist. Everything is new, and she is busy investigating all of it with the single-minded determination that is both fun, challenging playful interaction with the world and serious work. She doesn’t know much yet, but if we all applied ourselves to the world in this kind of way, we would be experts in very little time.
There seems to be a certain number of essential properties of objects, according to the baby. As near as I can tell, they are:
(1) The sound the object makes when banged against a hard surface. (Bonus: the sound when banged against some other object!)
(2) The taste and texture of an object when you chew it. (Bonus: the texture when you chew the OTHER side or end of the object!)
(3) And, NEW: What happens when you drop it a foot from the floor. Does it flutter? Does it bounce? Does it splash? (Also, investigate VERB concept. It seems to be useful.)
Like a little scientist, my daughter when first investigating a field doesn’t have a lot of assumptions about things. Gravity? Hmm. What IS this thing? I fall down when I lose my grip on the couch. A lot. Okay. Well, does this phenomena apply to other objects? What happens if, for example, I drop THIS toy? Does it still fall? Ooh, it does? What happens if I drop this OTHER toy, with some force, at an angle? Oooh, a bounce! Can we recreate that result? She will sit there for ten or fifteen minutes (an eternity in ten month land) working to try to do similar actions over and over again to see if a result was a fluke or is indicative of a larger pattern she must then figure out.
It’s fascinating to see her explore the world and put things together. We visited my neighbor’s house yesterday and my neighbor (an awesome lady) asked whether the baby had any teeth yet. My daughter reached up and poked my neighbor’s teeth immediately thereafter. She understood the word and the concept both–even though she is still currently toothless :). She does things like that periodically that make me realize she is picking up understanding FAST, sometimes in things I didn’t quite mean to teach her. Example: a small fall off the couch, where I caught her enough to prevent injury but not enough to keep her from getting scared. When I told a friend on the phone afterwards about it (in front of the baby) and how scared I was that she was trying to crawl away on the diaper change table now since she has no fear of heights, the next time I changed her diaper she was STILL. My daughter is never still 🙂 so that was a big change, at least for the moment.
Not every moment of this parenting thing is rainbows and sunshine, but seeing her investigate the world and get things, seeing her tap something new against the table or test a new hypothesis or variation on a pattern, well, that makes me realize all over again how miraculous our whole lives are. If subatomic charges were even slightly different, or gravity slightly different, or biology less complex, or any one of thousands of other things were different than they are–we would not exist. Or we would have a world so different that you and I would not be able to function within it.
Given her scientist chops, however, my daughter would likely be just fine.