By: Judy Lyden
A child continues to learn through the senses in the second year, but he adds kinesthetic – he’s mobile, so his ability to learn has the element of taking himself to and taking himself away for those things he wants to touch and explore.
Instead of just seeing something from a distance in his infant chair, he can go to it on his own. He can get to it quickly, he can run. Then he can pick up a toy, he can pick up a lighter, and he begins to learn by doing. Doing will be his mode of learning for most of his pre-reading years.
Talking is put on the back burner in favor of learning about motion. Motion is the thing he is most aware of, and it gives him his first real conflict – mother’s idea of safety and his idea of exploration clash. There are tears and a sense of deprivation. As the job of safety becomes a primary parent task, the child turns from his parents and runs; he is building independence.
And with building independence, he is learning to mix the senses in order to learn more about the physical world. Out of the infant chair, off his knees, standing only seconds to watch, he sees and he copies actions, and as he copies, he begins to use his mind to build. He can do one and sometimes as many as three of the building stages, and everything becomes a block – pillows, cans, books, cereal boxes and video tapes.
Most children will eat nearly anything at this stage because they are growing and going. Food is fuel, and although a child can’t articulate it, he’s filling the tank in order to move.
At the same time, he will listen to everything. He will scream to hear himself. He will learn to mimic voices and other sounds. He will enjoy familiar sounds if repetition is offered. Repetition has only good meanings for him. It’s by repetition that he begins to learn to talk.
He touches everything, and it is through touch that will offer him more knowledge than any other sense. It also allows him to be in control of his immediate world and danger becomes a game causing him to laugh, to cry, to begin to feel consequences of his own actions.
He begins to understand routine and he applies his life to meal times and bed times and sometimes going out times. He learns what it means to hurt and he learns to experience the emotions - sorrow and joy adding these new passions to pleasure and pain.
In a natural environment, a child would increase dramatically between infancy and age two. But surprisingly, not so in the more repressive late 20th and early 21st centuries when he may be an only child or one of two. Infancy is somehow more wonderful for parents than any other years, and as a child begins to dash away from the cradling of infancy to become the little tycoon of independence, parents will hold him back, “Just another month, a week, a day, please, just for mommy because I won’t get another chance to baby you.”
But in the natural state, a child who is 14, 15,18 or 19 months old can make his own lunch, take apart a telephone with a screwdriver, potty train himself, learn his letters, speak in full sentences and hike along side his parents for a respectable amount of time. So how do we compromise between keeping him young and letting him grow?
Children in this age group should be kept from TV as much as possible. TV encourages passive behaviors. The bright colors will discourage doing and encourage sitting. The one word that describes this age is kinesthetic and that is never a passive option. A child this age should be outdoors to run as much as possible.
Food is part of a child’s exploration. Let him try anything raw and whole. Let him help discover making his own food. Let him try adult foods a little at a time. Eating is an independent activity.
Sleep begins to be more of a one shot deal. 12 hours should be enough sleep, and naps should become naps, not half a night’s sleep.
Speech develops more quickly when the TV is off and the adult talks to the child and expects a response that is coherent and meaningful.
Toys begin to reach beyond the closed plastic name brand items we all think are so cute, and reach into cosmetic cases, kitchen cabinets and collections of neat stuff. The more a child explores, the more he will know. Letting a child grow up is tough on parents, but not letting them grow is tougher on the child.