On the Beach

PIP On the Beach

New sights and new textures are made familiar for a baby with careful adult interest, says Anne O’Connor…

Dexter (12 months) and his mother are at the beach. His mother points to the birds and Dexter follows her gaze and says ‘bap’. This is the word that he uses for birds – and also for dogs. She understands and repeats ‘bap’ back to him, as well as using the word ‘bird’.

They find a good place to play that is just the right height for Dexter to stand and investigate the shells and the sand. He has also found a stick and he spends a lot of time poking it into the sand, prodding shells with it and scratching it on different surfaces. He pushes things into the sand to hide them and then finds them again. Dexter has been walking for a month or so, but he finds the soft sand harder to negotiate. He happily crawls along until he finds a surface that can support his new-found walking skills.

GOOD PRACTICE 1 Dexter is beginning to categorise the things in his world, in a very personal way, by using the same word ‘bap’ when he sees things he recognises.

The study of ‘infant categorisation’, or how babies make sense of their world and all the animate (living) and inanimate things in it, is an area of child development that has kept researchers very busy, particularly since the 1970s.

We know that our brains generally like to categorise things and that there seems to be good sense in this – how complicated would the world be if we had to learn about each new thing independently of the things we had learned before, rather than by grouping them in categories?

Learning to ‘generalise’ and create categories about vehicles or animals, for example, frees up our brains so that we don’t have to learn everything from scratch each time we come across a new example…

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Article written by Anne O’Connor and published in Nursery World © www.nurseryworld.co.uk