Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Field Notes from Stage 5

Field Notes From Stage 5: The Rubber-Road Interface at Age 16 Months

This is a post-fragment, but it's come to my attention that my posts are getting pretty sparse, so pardon the abrupt ending, there's more to come.

So, if you had the stomach, you've read the Stage 5 "expected outcomes". If not, you could read them now, by just scrolling down one post (and pinning your eyelids up). All the definitions are there if you need them. Today's post is about our actual experience as compared with the aforementioned expectations. For example, at left we have the Experimental Toddler in her garden, making cross-patterned mincemeat of an innocent stick.

At 16 months, we're squarely in the middle of Stage 5, so it stands to reason that some of the expected behaviors will be evident now, and some not just yet. Here's what we've seen so far:

Hand dominance: She appears to be weakly right-handed. She tends to pick up tools (like a spoon or a crayon) with the right hand, though she will switch if it's convenient. When feeding herself, for example, she reaches for the spoon with the right hand, but will just hold it in her right while shoveling oatmeal into her mouth with the left hand. She will grab a blueberry or blackberry with either hand.

Heterolateral movement: She walks pretty evenly, climbs stairs with both feet sometimes, but doesn't yet swing her arms while walking. She either clasps them behind her back (so like the little pacing dictator), pushes them out behind like a superman cape, or tucks them in at the elbows when walking. I think this is part of why she doesn't corner well at high speeds yet. In general, her running is sort of awkward, as are most of her attempts at heterolateral arm movements. The grannies have both noticed a little inward sickle in the left foot (and raised the specter of orthopedic shoes! I almost threw up. I LOVE shoes!) Yeah, even I can see the pigeon toe. We're going to the doctor in a couple of weeks and we'll ask about it.

Cross-patterning: We are definitely seeing her reach across the midline with ease. She opens and closes doors, reaches across her body for things, and works objects with both hands simultaneously with ease. She can shake hands, and can easily switch the hand she is holding mine with when turning around.

Cycles of activity: Her bedtime and waking time are pretty well set, including her early morning transfer to our bed (promptly between 4 and 5am) and while she is still a little flexible about the actual hour of the clock, she does expect to have sleep-eat-play cycles in a predictable order. Breakfast on waking, then play, then nap, then lunch, then play, then snack, then more play, then dinner, then bath, then bed. Deviations are tolerated as long as we are not at home, but the order must be rigidly followed at the house, or mayhem.

Undressing: She takes off socks and shoes readily, a cardigan sweater pretty easily, and raises her arms or legs to help with a shirt or pants. She does not really undress herself head to toe, as I hear some other kids do. She does run from diapers, though.

Walking and carrying things: Yes, this is a favorite activity. She will carry the biggest (a kitchen stool) or heaviest (an old doorknocker in the shape of a dog) thing she can find. It is a source of great pride for her.

Opening and closing things: Yes, yes, yes! What a colossal pain in the ass to have one's purse and wallet opened and unpacked all over the floor four or five times a day. Trash can lids, toothpaste caps, whatever she can get open, it is open, and if there is anything inside, it will be outside. She likes to replace the lids, but can't really manage screw caps or snap-tops, so hardly anything is really ever closed again.

Resisting new barriers: We have experienced this in a rather textbook way. I pictured her howling at the gates in the new house, which she has not. She accepts them as part of the whole new-house package. The predictable problem we have now is with her outdoor environment, which does not yet have all the physical barriers it should have. She is MOST resistant to being told not to go down the sidewalk and into the street, which is clearly wide open to her. I can't really gate the sidewalk, so we'll just have to work it through. I mean, she seems to get it, she's just not really willingly compliant. Is that news to anybody?

Jumping on both feet: Nuvy does not jump. The neighbors have a little exercise trampoline, and their children love to put her on it, but she just kind of bends her knees a little, to feel the bounce. The feet do not leave the ground at all. I will sometimes catch them "bouncing" her up and down by lifting her under the arms, which is not something I would do, but it's pretty funny to watch. She now bends her knees repeatedly on the bed or trampoline and says "Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!" Maybe she's taking a clue from the immortal words of Tom Cruise, If you can't say it, you can't do it.

Catching and throwing: She loves to play ball, and will devise a ball out of anything (used packing tape is a recent favorite). She is better at throwing than catching, as might be anticipated, but is very interested in both.

Leaning forward on tiptoe: We are definitely seeing this, and she has a very cute little "tippy-toe dance" that she does when she's showing off, but which is different from the sort of Devo-Jerk kind of dance she does to music.

Digging and building: I see more digging than building, but not too much of either. She is not crazy about getting dirt on her hands.

Speech: She's pretty verbal, and uses many words appropriately. I hear that early talking runs in the family. She says "bless you" when someone sneezes, "thanks" when she's giving you something (though, oddly not when she receives something), and "Oh, shit!" when she spills a whole glass of milk in her lap (I don't know where she got that...). She uses the milder "oopsie" or "uh-oh" for water spills and other accidents, as well as for deliberate acts of entropy. She can name all her immediate relatives and most anything she eats or wears, and repeats everything she hears. Everything.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Stage 5 Continued

Now Where Were We? Oh Right. Stage 5

Back in January, at the beginning of our adventures in Stage 5, Nuvy was just starting to walk, just starting to say a word or two, and generally behaving as expected for this stage. Then, somebody turned our snow globe upside down (previous post if you're interested in the details...), but now we are beginning to see more clearly again, and are ready to continue describing Stage 5. As ever, if human development bores you silly, just skip to the environmental supports. That's where the "stuff" is.

Note from the mailbag:
I have had a couple of emails asking for books with all this "stages" information in them. If anyone knows of a single source, please post it. I am writing exclusively from class notes and projects, and have not done too much research into the background sources, but it seems that there are lots of different ways to slice this melon, and I'll bet each one has its own library.

I have also had several messages about differences between my panel of gurus and other panels who run other Montessori toddler training programs, and you bet! There are as many disparate ideas on (tummy time, mobiles, mirrors, crying, whatever...) as there are folks who hang out a Montessori training shingle and tell us all THE MONTESSORI LAW. These bother me less and amuse me more, the longer I keep up this project. Anyway, where's the fun in agreeing all the time?

Stage 5 Summary

Stage 5 is defined by my guru panel as the period between 12 and 18 months. Roughly one shoe size, right? The following is a summary of what we expect from the Experimental Toddler at this stage, after that a few environmental additions we've made. Next post, we'll talk a little about what we have actually observed from our E.T. so far.

Neurological and Physical Development
Significant specialization occurs in all areas the brain at Stage 5, and of particular interest is the specialization of the hemispheres (the old "left-brain/right-brain" thing all those Signals t-shirts are always chirping about). This specialization and coordination between hemispheres precipitates:

  • evidence of hand-dominance ("lefty" or "righty")
  • heterolateral movement--meaning alternating movement evenly on both sides of the body, such as stair-climbing with both legs, swinging arms while walking, and other left/right/left/right activities.
  • cross-patterning--or the ability to reach across the center of the body to do something, like shaking hands, opening doors, or grabbing a spoon from the left side of your plate, using your right hand. Follow?

Cycles of activity are getting established, and with this come the old sleeping and eating routines. You might get some speech at this stage, but many times it comes a little later.

New Physical Skills

  • undressing--a variably convenient skill for parents.
  • walking steadily and carrying objects while walking
  • opening and closing things (doors, jars, boxes...)
  • resisting any new barriers--such as newly placed baby gates. Stage 5 children abhor any kind of physical restraint, so if it's not too late for you, go ahead and get those baby gates up long before you think you'll need them. A barrier placed before Stage 5 is likely to be viewed as a natural part of the environment (at least for a little while) while one placed during Stage 5 will probably become an object of resistance.
  • jumping on both feet
  • catching and throwing things
  • leaning forward on tiptoe
  • digging and building

She is really beginning to use her hands as tools, rather than just for locomotion or gazing, and finds that they are pretty useful for things like feeding herself (food and other things).

Cognitive Development

An interesting cognitive milestone is reached at about this time--the Stage 5 child begins to learn from trial and error, and to alter her strategy to accomplish a goal. If she has a goal, and her current strategy for reaching it isn't working, she'll try it another way. Just a few months ago, she would keep trying the same thing over and over until she either succeeded or abandoned the goal altogether.

She can also go back to an interrupted task--another development that is variably useful for parents--at her next opportunity. Just a little while ago, she would have forgotten all about the interrupted activity and gone on to something else.

Repetition continues to be important, but the sequences become more and more comples, so you see building and stacking. She is gratified by creating tall things or lifting heavy things. She can identify familiar objects and people in a picture, and can categorize based on a simple common feature (e.g. same color, different color).

Emotional and Social Development

The Stage 5 child's interpersonal skills acquire remerkable subtlety. She starts to consciously regulate her emotions, and realizes the influence her behavior has on others--particularly her parents. She can curb her anger if there's positive incentive to do so, tests limits, and enjoys applause. She loves an audience and tries on various roles to see how they feel.

She has a strong sense of self and ownership. She can take turns to some degree, but is a long way yet from sharing. She begins to take an interest in other children, often preferring them to adults.

Speech is emerging, and she will name things and remember their names. She experiments vocally with animal sounds and rhythms. she enjoys rhyming as a linguistic point of interest.

Environmental Supports

Space!: The Stage 5 child is walking now, and so needs plenty of room to explore, both inside and out. If you don't have a big yard, go to parks--with and without play equipment. Free movement outside without play equipment is as valuable as climbing and playing on structures. Just make sure there's plenty of outdoor time that's not stroller time. Inside, move those barriers out a bit if you can, take all the breakables off the second (or third) shelf, and let her roam as much as possible.

Language: Naming, naming naming. Collections of things to name are great for this stage. The classic ones are farm animals, fruits and vegetables and the like, but you will find all kinds of things out there. Tools, articles of clothing (doll clothes are good), whatever you can think of.

Sensorial: Opposites are big in this stage. High contrast elements in a variety of sensory experiences should be introduced for matching and comparison. Big and small, hot and cold (not too hot, right?), smooth and rough, hard and soft, loud and quiet, whatever you can think of. A lot of these don't require any new "equipment". You can do loud and quiet with nothing, and just about everything else can be improvised.

Math: 1:1 correspondence appears to be the key concept. Find something with several compartments and put one thing in each compartment (I love those little sock drawer organizers for this. You could even use the socks.). This is where math really begins. After all, without 1:1 correspondence, counting is just language--remembering a sequence of sounds, right? Another great activity for this is doling things out to the family (one blueberry for you, one for Daddy, and one for Mommy), or table setting, if you think your child is up to it.

Care of self/environment (Practical life): With the newfound ability to take off clothes comes an opportune time to introduce cubbies, laundry hampers, hooks, baskets, any easy organizational tool. You might already have introduced tooth brushing and hair brushing. I have decided to convert my abandoned weaning table (see "Weany, Whiny, Whoa!") into a handwashing station.

Grace and Courtesy: When you start to get language that means "give me", you can start expecting "please" and "thank you". Well, expect might be too strong a word, but you can ACT as if you expect it...

The little imitator will do whatever you do, so it's a good time to point out things like covering your face when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands before and after eating. You might also start hearing some sailor-language, if you're apt to use it.

Ok, this post is plenty long, so I'll give you the rundown on my the experimental toddler's actual observed behavior in the next post.