I’ve observed that in the first year of life, my child has learned the following:
1. He has needs, and the way to get those met is to let others know about them. We all know how vocal a newborn can be about his/her needs. A baby cries when hungry, tired, wet, bored, or uncomfortable. Over the last several months, my son has become more deliberate in his efforts to get his needs met. He signs “more” when he wants something to eat or drink, or wants a fun activity repeated. He waves “bye-bye” when someone is leaving…or when he wants to go somewhere. He pulls on a pant-leg, delivers a toy, or makes eye contact with a person or object that interests him. Already by one year of age, a child is able to demonstrate an innate desire to communicate with others to get his/her needs met!
2. Growing and learning is exciting! Although he obviously still needs lots of help, Noah seems to take great pride in doing things himself. He walked already at 10 months, and although he still gets carried around a lot, he enjoys going places on his own power. Although it’s tempting to surround him with toys, or always find ways to entertain him, we see that “down time” encourages him to find ways to entertain himself—sometimes through getting into trouble, but more often through exploring and inventing creative activities.
3. The most fun things in life are those that invoke a response from others. Already at one year of age, Noah loves to connect with others and to get a response from them. He pulls funny faces, waiting for us to laugh. He grabs Daddy’s hat off his head, waiting for Daddy’s mock, “Oh, no—you stole my hat!” He never tires of favorite books, knowing we’ll read them to him again and again. Naturally, he appears particularly drawn to the things that provoke negative responses. A stern, “No-no!” makes him more determined than ever to repeat what he’s doing, often with a giggle and a gleam in his eye, giving Mom and Dad lots of opportunities to show that we mean what we say!
4. It’s fun to “help!” Even though things don’t always end up where they need to, Noah loves to “help” with basic chores around the house. He tries to take his turn emptying the dishwasher. He carries something across the room to deliver it to another family member. He empties his toys all over the floor of the living room (although he lacks the same enthusiasm for returning them to the toy box when he’s finished playing). He turns off his “music box” (what’s left of his mobile) before getting up from a nap. When we affirm his efforts, he learns that helping is another way to receive positive attention.
What I’ve noticed as I get older—and as I work with countless teens, young adults, and their families—is that although we learn many of these lessons already in the first year of life, we often lose sight of these lessons as we age. I’ll describe what I mean in next week’s Social Incites.
For now, happy birthday to Noah, and to all of you, whenever your birthday may be, I wish you childlike enthusiasm for life, learning, and connecting with and helping others!
Laurel Falvo, CFLE
Certified Family Life Educator
Executive Director, The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding