are the “development of patience with peers and the enhancement of respect
for other people’s ideas” (1990, 259).
The development of empathy is also promoted through exposure to certain
social issues that will hopefully make positive impressions in your toddlers’
young and open minds. For example, to physically imitate the movements and
characteristics of a variety of animals is to imagine what it is like to be those
animals. Those of us who wish to see children raised with a healthy respect and
compassion for the world’s creatures can certainly hope that, once our children
have imagined what it’s like to be the animals, they will never be able to imag-
ine a world without them.
It has been said that joy is the most powerful of all mental stimuli. For young
children, movement is certainly joyous. Beyond that, however, studies of how
young children learn have proven that they especially acquire knowledge
experientially—through play, experimentation, exploration, and discovery.
For example, when children move over, under, around, through, beside, and
near objects and others, they better grasp the meaning of these prepositions
and geometry concepts. When they perform a “slow walk” or skip “lightly,”
adjectives and adverbs become much more than abstract ideas. When they’re
given the opportunity to physically demonstrate such action words as stomp,
pounce, stalk, or slither—or descriptive words such as smooth, strong, gentle, or
enormous—word comprehension is immediate and long lasting. The words are
in context, as opposed to being a mere collection of letters. This is what pro-
motes emergent literacy and a love of language.
Similarly, if children take on high, low, wide, and narrow body shapes, they’ll
have a much greater understanding of these quantitative concepts—and oppo-
sites—than do children who are merely presented with the words and their
definitions. When they act out the lyrics to “Ten in the Bed” (“There were five in
the bed, and the little one said, ‘Roll over’ . . .”), they can see that five minus one
leaves four. The same understanding—and fascination—results when children
have personal experience with such scientific concepts as gravity, flotation,
evaporation, magnetics, balance and stability, and action and reaction.