Saturday, October 20, 2007

The work of childhood

This week, when Dan fought his morning nap, I figured he was just trying to give it up for good. A lot of babies do at his age. He's been sleeping very well at night, but during the day, sleep just wasn't on the agenda. As I watched him play this week, I understood why.

A set of eight soft blocks with removable middle pieces fascinates him. This is the only toy I've bought new and, at $16.00, it's turned out to be a very good investment. Inside the blocks are see-through shaped pieces with objects inside - a key, a ball and tiny beads. Another three pieces are rubbery and textured. Until recently, Dan hasn't noticed the pieces unless I remove them. This past week, he's been intent on removing them himself.

Dan pushes the middle piece, realizes that it comes out the other side, turns the block, tries to grasp the piece and, in the process, pushes the piece back in. He repeats this several times then moves on. He would always come back to it, though.

One day, Jim lined up a few more blocks with removable centers and told him, "I want these done before dinner, kid."

Watching him this week has been a very good illustration of purposeful play, a concept pioneered by Maria Montessori. A little guidance and a lot of free time to discover goes a long way. Come to think of it, I never explicitely showed him how to remove the pieces. He must have seen me do it.

This morning, though, he finally got it. And he went down for his morning nap 45 minutes ago.

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