May 30, 2007 Your baby, who used to play so nicely, suddenly seems less attentive and appears to have difficulty concentrating. There could be a good reason for this—it could be that he is beginning to walk. New research at the Faculty of Education of the University of Haifa found that a baby's learning to walk affects his play skills. "Parents need to know that they should modify their demands from their child during certain periods of change and development in order to encourage their child and enhance his feelings of mastery and competence," said Dr. Eleanor Schneider who conducted the research under the direction of Prof. Anat Scher.
The research was based on the assumption that the domain of play reflects the interaction between the child and his environment. When a child begins to walk, the way in which he experiences his environment changes. This change may be manifested in the way he plays. In order to examine this assumption, sixty children were evaluated at ages 10, 12 and 14 months. The researcher measured the child's play using three parameters: persistence and engagement in a specific task while playing with objects, attention span and concentration and the level of sophistication of object play.
Results revealed a tendency to a decrease in the child's level of persistence, concentration and attentiveness at the onset of walking in comparison to the pre-walking stage. This "regression" in play behavior was short-term since the child's persistence and attentiveness tended to increase and improve after mastering the initial stages of independent walking. The researcher also witnessed a regression, albeit not decisive, in task-directed behaviors during this period.
The researcher also found differences between the level of play of children who had already begun to walk and children of the same age who were not yet walking. Those children who had mastered independent walking exhibited a higher level of play than their non-walking peers. "In order to enable a child to develop in an encouraging, nurturing environment, parents need to adjust their expectations according to their child's current stage of development. Parents, as well as researchers in the field, need to take into account that processes involving attention and persistence are likely to be influenced by current motor processes being experienced by the child," explained Dr. Schneider.
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