Many people miss this, thinking a baby is a baby is a baby, seeing them
as interchangeable and indistinguishable until about the age of three,
when they magically become people. They fail to look below the surface of
dirty diapers, ear infections, 2:36 am feedings, thick green snoterpillars,
drool, messes, and expenses to see the wonderment of infanthood and
toddlerhood. They miss the amazing.
Even people who see infants and toddlers as unique and remarkable
entities often have a hard time understanding them. We all started out
as infants, then toddlers, but even though we lived through it, we do not
carry clear memories of how our minds and emotions worked in our ear-
liest years. Since we don’t remember our first years and cannot rely on
memories of our experiences during that time, we have to depend on our
observational skills to understand what is going on in minds like Bren-
den’s, when he plows through shrubs and flower beds, or Marygrace’s,
when she plays with Phoebe.
For most of human civilization, the inner life and development of
infants and toddlers did not receive much thought. Once adults started
trying to understand them, the observational tools at hand—our senses—
limited us. We tried comprehending what they understand through what
we observed. Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, Lev Vygotsky, Magda Gerber,
Maria Montessori, and other pioneers were remarkable observers, but
they could do only so much with the tools available to them. It was not
until very recently that powerful computers and scanners made it possible
to look unobtrusively inside young brains for a clearer picture of what
makes infants and toddlers tick.
Giving Infants and Toddlers What They Need to Be
Safe and Thrive
Much of what we think we know about infants and toddlers is wrong. By
the time good research reaches parents and caregivers, it is dumbed down,
snipped into bite-size video and audio clips, filtered, spun, sanitized, and
packaged for consumption. On top of that, some research has predeter-
mined results intended to drive a specific policy, product, or point of view.
The reality is that not everyone investigating how the minds of infants and
toddlers work has the best interests of those infants and toddlers in mind.
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