von Hanna Vock
A mother provided me with her notes for publication which I sorted and edited. I was also allowed to comment on them. With my best thanks.
Comments by Hanna Vock.
The little boy Pete showed the following behaviour:
0 Years, 3 Months, 11 Days:
Over a period of 24 hours he focused his eyes on toys hung over his little bed or over the blanket he was lying on (kicking his legs lightly, sometimes fervidly, highly concentrated, joyful) for extended periods of time:
from 03:10 to 04:07 (57 minutes),
from 09:12 to 09:38 (26 minutes),
from 15:06 to 16:21 (75 minutes),
from 21:33 to 22:18 (45 minutes).
This adds up to a total of 3 hours and 23 minutes of self-imposed “working time” – not counting the working time spent “drinking”.
During these times, when he practised looking, he almost continuously focused on the toy, only to be interrupted by short concentrated looks around by turning his head. The hands repeatedly twitched in the direction of the toy as if trying to reach it.
The observer was under the impression that these moves were intentional attempts for something that his motor skills didn’t allow for yet.
And all the while the new nerve tracts necessary to finally enable the child to reach out and touch the toy were probably being grown rather speedily in the brain.
The next day targeted grabbing (with one hand) could be observed for the first time. When successful (initially on only few tries) the baby smiled visibly. These “grabbing exercises”, too, were performed with great perseverance and repeated over extended periods of time. When the baby was picked up and thereby disturbed in its present occupation it would react with great disgruntlement and even anger.
This shows a remarkable intrinsic motivation (in comparison to other babies of the same age) and a great endurance with regard to activities that are at the limits of present capabilities and represent considerable intellectual challenge.
The great perseverance leads to serious practising and results in quick success.
Observations on Music
1st Observation, 11 Months, 20 Days:
I am sitting on the floor together with Pete, he is picking rattles from a basket of toys. These are empty containers for lotions with shiny red lids, they all look the same. Each one of them contains different materials: coins, dry peas, stones, 1 large wooden button, 7 little buttons.
Pete shakes the containers, sometimes one in each hand, and he listens with great interest and concentration to the slightly different noises they make when he shakes them. The shakes them because that is what he presently likes to do with things he gets his hands on, and he pays attention to the effects this has.
He seems to really like the rhythmic rattling noises.
2nd Observation, 1 Year, 2 Months, 9 Days:
Pete rediscovers the rattling containers in a toy box. He tries them out one by one, listening closely. Each new rattling sound causes him to squeak in joy. After having tried them all out he picks up his favourites and listens once more, he is thrilled.
He can now build on his knowledge from his earlier experience with the containers, which also means: he actively remembers the containers and knows that he can get those rattling sounds out of them.
He now shakes the containers intentionally to create the sounds. He acts intentionally and his approach is systematic.
Two months ago it was still his newly acquired motor skills which were at the centre of his learning endeavours: shaking everything he laid his hands on – expanding his experience and knowledge.
Now this learning strategy has become second nature and he makes intentional use of it: on the one hand he acquires new knowledge with this, on the other hand he deepens and fine-tunes his knowledge about things he already knows.
This strategy will stay with him for life and he will be able to make use of it whenever he finds it useful, but he will do so less frequently because his repertoire of strategies will expand immensely.
3rd Observation, 1 Year, 1 Month, 0 Days:
Pete has been showing interest in the metal wind chimes for the past few weeks. He listens to the manifold sounds they create when I touch them.
The first time I showed them to him he touched them himself and was thrilled by the sounds. Which tubes he struck and how strongly he did so was still quite at random. But he observed the different effects ever more closely.
He kept gravitating towards the wind chimes and the word “Klingklong”, which was used to name the chimes, also gave him great pleasure.
Today it finally occurred to me to hang the chimes low enough for him to be able to reach them easily while kneeling.
He was right on it and I was able to make the following observation. For 14 minutes he was absorbed in playing with them and trying them out: first he struck them strongly a few times, then he touched the tubes lightly and listened to the mellow tones, finally, for about 9 minutes, he varied the intensity when striking the entire instrument, touched one or several tubes at a time, struck them with a wooden stick …
4th Observation, 1 Year, 2 Months, 12 Days:
Playing together and taking turns with the rattling containers:
He waits until I stop, then rattles himself, stops after just about the same length of time, looks at me with expectation and wears a contented expression when I rattle, observes and waits, comes in right when I stop. We do this some 7 or 8 times in a row.
5th Observation, 1 Year, 2 Months, 12 Days:
Pete has been in the paddling pool and in the lake, it is summer, it is the evening now and he is running around in the flat happily, dressed only in his diapers (the parents and grand-parents are there and are playing with him).
He and I are making music: I am knocking on a cookie jar, he rattles his containers. He keeps the time. He rattles all he can. He gets ecstatic and starts dancing, swaying, turning and running while never forgetting the rhythmic rattling.
For more than half an hour he twirls around through the flat, rattling, dancing and laughing, sometimes out of our sight and then reappearing. Every time I join his rhythm with wooden sticks or by drumming my fingers on the cookie jar it gives him great joy and he intensifies his movements and gets louder.
Observation on Early Sense of Humour: Shoe on a Lamp?
11 Months, 30 Days
Many times Pete has slept under the lamps on the wall which have little shoes and boots hanging from them, they used to belong to his mother and his uncle when they were infants. They are hanging there for reminiscence. He has looked at them many times, however more absorbed by the light of the lamps.
Today I walk into the room carrying him on my arm. He sees the boots and as always wants to touch them, but this time he breaks into loud laughter. He looks across to the other lamp and laughs out loudly again.
Quite obviously he suddenly finds it funny that shoes should be hanging from a lamp.
Before, the unusual and absurd of this arrangement with the shoes hanging from the lamp had never struck him. He took it for what it was, along with the many other inexplicable things in his surroundings.
Now, he has acquired concepts and experiences which he can compare his present impressions with. He has a concept of “lamp”. You can turn it on and off, accordingly it will be dark or shine with light. But what do shoes have to do with it?
He has also understood what a shoe is. And he knows where shoes usually are: on feet, on the floor or on a shelf.
Now he sees: there is something different here from what one would expect. How funny!
Playing with the Matroyshka
11 Months, 27 Days
Pete is playing with the Matroyshka for the first time.
This is a set of 7 Russian figures made of wood which all fit into one another. Each one, except the smallest one, is hollow and can be taken apart into two pieces. When you do so the next smaller figure appears inside.
Pete and I are sitting on the floor. I take the set apart once in front of him and put it together again.
Pete throws the figure on the floor and the outermost figure comes apart. He puts the parts of the biggest figure aside, grabs the second figure, which contains the other smaller ones (the smallest two had been removed, so that he would not accidentally swallow them).
He shakes figure #2, laughs and tries to separate the two parts of it. Thanks to his strong hands he succeeds. He is thrilled when figure #3 appears.
Continuing in this fashion he takes apart the entire ensemble.
He looks at the different size parts scattered about, picks them up and tries to put them together but fails to do so. Randomly he tries to put parts together and after several unsuccessful attempts he turns to other toys.
1 Year, 3 Months
I am sitting on the floor together with Pete. He has rediscovered the Matroyshka and plays with it for 38 minutes, highly concentrated. He tries to open the biggest Matroyshka but fails, the parts are hard to separate. He hands it to me with an expectant look.
Now the following sequence repeats until the very smallest of the seven figures appears: he is thrilled every time the next smaller figure appears and then hands it to me so that I open it.
When finally all the parts are scattered across the floor he picks the two fitting parts and hands them to me. He is satisfied when I put them back together. Picking the right pieces that go together he makes only one mistake, but notices it right away when he sees the pieces close to each other and corrects his mistake.
After all the figures have been reassembled I take two of them and fit them into one another in a step by step procedure. Pete watches and is fascinated. The remaining 20 minutes he works trying to find out how all the figures disappear in the biggest one. He shakes the figure to find out whether there is one inside or not. However, he still cannot master the task he has set for himself.
Nevertheless he is having great fun with this activity and keeps taking figures apart and putting them back together. Whenever he has got a smaller one in his hand he opens the bigger one and tries to stick the smaller one into it. Oftentimes he tries to put an upper part together with a lower part. He notices that it does not fit but cannot find the right one, which seems to confuse him and he turns to the other figures.
This repeats several times. At times he just rolls the figures across the floor or tries to build towers with them, unfortunately neglecting the lower parts in favour of the upper parts which do not have a plane surface so that his attempts fail.
Early Concept of Sets / Amounts
1 Year, 3 Months , 12 Days
Pete is playing with a little wooden pot with a lid and 3 little stones and 3 little semi-precious stones.
He keeps taking the pieces out and back in again. The semi-precious stones are egg-shaped and keep rolling away. Sometimes he accidentally sits on one of them. But he will not stop before he has all 6 pieces back in the pot, he always gets the whole set together. Only then will he start taking them out again.
Methodical Operations, Memory
1 Year, 7 Months , 13 Days
About 4 months ago, in our holiday flat, I had put the children’s stool in front of the sink to see if he would be able to wash his hands without my help. The stool there looked quite different from the one at our house. But the faucet and the jet of water were too far away for him and so there were no further attempts and the stool was not used again.
Now we are at the same holiday flat again. It is time to brush teeth, he runs to the bathroom and comes back with two magazines in his hands, which he shows me. They had been lying on the stool almost completely covering it. I take them from him, he runs back to the bathroom and pushes the stool in front of the sink as if it were the most natural routine for him. He climbs up on the stool, has his teeth brushed, puts the stool back, comes running to the living room and looks at me expectantly (making a gesture of opening and closing his hand). I give him the magazines and he takes them to lay them back on the stool.
1 Year, 7 Months , 13 Days
At the supermarket he is sitting in the children’s seat of the trolley. I hand him every item that is to be bought. He looks at it, weighs it in his hand and, after having been shown once, carefully puts it down into the trolley (with some effort), even the carton box with the eggs. The day after the next we are back at the supermarket and he insists on the same procedure.
1 Year, 7 Months , 13 Days
When cleaning off the breakfast table he takes things that belong in the refrigerator to the refrigerator. I keep having to open the door again, he puts the things inside and closes the door. Used dishes he carries to the dishwasher. I open the flap and he puts the dishes in. Cheese rind and apricot cores he takes into his hand and looks around the kitchen. I show him the rubbish bin and he says “bah” (= can’t eat this, must throw away).
Then he looks around to see if there is anything else that needs to be put away and points to the part of the dishwasher where the cleaning tab is to be placed. I shake my head telling him that the dishwasher is not full yet, he checks it, shakes his head, points to an empty space, says “emmy” (= empty) and closes the flap. He feels an impulse to press the start button but lets go of it because I am shaking my head saying “wait”, upon which he turns away and looks for something else to play with.
1 Year, 9 Months
The parents are going out and the grand-parents are there to baby sit. Pete still expresses himself primarily by body language, he expands his active vocabulary daily but his articulation is still rather blurry.
First attempts to build sentences:
Looking at a picture book: “Meow, nam-nam” (The cat is eating). Or: “Granpa it air” (Grandpa is to sit on the chair). For him phonetic language does not seem to have been very appealing so far (compared to other infants he hardly made any utterances). Now he is discovering it as a useful method of communication, yet he is still somewhat handicapped by his poor articulation.
Children without an especially early language development are rarely recognised if they are gifted. Yet, Pete shows his intellectual aptitude even without early speaking.
Nevertheless, he has been able to express what he wanted from early on.
Today he seems to feel that he is the host; for the first time he is experiencing the situation, that his grand-parents are in his parents’ flat.
He sees grandma to a little drawing desk and taps his hand on the chair next to his own (like: grandma take a seat). Grandma and Pete are drawing, grandpa enters the room and sits down on the armchair. Pete looks at him, gets up, goes to the shelf and gives grandpa a toy, saying: “there” (you have something to play with, too). Then he sits down at the desk again and continues to draw with grandma.
A little later grandma mentions the word “bed” (“Well, you’re going to bed pretty soon”). Pete gets up, gives grandma a friendly look, takes her by the hand and walks her to the bedroom. There he taps his hand on his mother’s bed and says “grandma” (you can sleep here). Grandpa enters the bedroom, Pete sees him and taps his hand on his father’s bed and says “Grandpa”.
1 Year, 9 Months, 3 Days
Pete is given a baby doll as a present. I hold it before him so that he can look at it and approach it if he wants to.
He smiles and says “baby, baby”.
Then he says “ap”, takes the cap off the baby’s head and looks at the (bald) head. Then he says ”acket” (jacket) and tries to take the jacket off the doll.
He wants the doll to walk and holds it accordingly. I tell him that the baby cannot walk yet. He smiles at me and says “Baby tap tap no”. Then he looks at the doll and says “Pat” und smiles. A few weeks ago he was on holiday for a few days together with his cousin Patrick, who cannot walk yet, either. Since then the doll has been named Pat.
As I am trying to lay the doll to bed he protests strongly. Possible explanation: He wants to play with the doll so it cannot go to bed yet. He probably knows this from kindergarten: someone who has gone to bed is not at disposal as a playing mate.
He sets the doll on a little chair by the drawing desk. The doll sits too low, the head hardly looks over the edge of the table. I say: “The doll is too small”, and I put a folded blanket underneath it. Pete takes a pen and starts drawing. He makes gestures as if to tell me to give the doll a pen too. I say (thoughtlessly): “The doll can’t draw yet, it’s still too small.”
Pete looks over to the doll, gets up and hands me another blanket. His look tells me he wants me to put another blanket under the doll.
Then he wants the doll to play xylophone too. Pete is not satisfied until I take the doll and act as if it were playing.
He is playing gee-gees with the doll, comforts and strokes it after having dropped it.
1 Year, 9 Months, 1 Day
Pete is drawing with yellow chalk on a piece of cardboard. With large strokes from left to right he scribbles a picture, looks at it and says enthusiastically “nana” (banana).
1 Year, 9 Months, 12 Days
Pete knows the difference between the following colours and he can name them:
“nana” or “ello” (yellow)
After I point it out to him he adds “onge” (orange) to his active vocabulary.
He also makes a difference between “ite” and “dak” (bright and dark) inside as well as outdoors.
He also differentiates spontaneously between “igg” and “moa” (big and small), but he still has to figure out the relativity of these terms. He is quite confused if the same toy block is presented to him as being small (compared to a bigger one) and big (compared to a smaller one).
1 Year, 11 Months
Pete differentiates and names white, grey, black, purple and pink.
Yes and No
1 Year, 9 Months, 12 Days
Pete has been using “no” for a while now, for instance:
“Are you finished eating?” – „No, no.“ (And he always means it exactly that way.)
Now he has begun using “yes” (And he does mean exactly that, too.)
He also answers correctly when asked where something is. And he knows quite well where everything is. But the following scene shows that he is insecure about “where”-questions:
We are looking at a photograph of his playing mate on a swing. The picture was taken in our garden.
Pete says: “Silli wing.” (Silvio is on the swing.)
I ask: “Where is this?” Pete points at the picture and says: “Dere”. I say: “Is this at grandma and grandpa’s?” “No”. “Is it here in kindergarten?” “No.” “Then where is it?” “Dere”. So, is this in the garden?” “Ya.”
Ich frage: „Wo schaukelt er denn?“ Pete zeigt auf das Foto und sagt: „Da.“ Ich: „Ist das denn bei Oma und Opa?“ „Nein.“ „Ist das denn in der Kita?“ „Nein.“ „Wo ist das denn?“ „Da.“ „Ist das denn im Garten?“ “Ja.“
He does know where Silvio is swinging, but in answering the “where”-question he cannot quite differentiate between the image and the actual location.
At the age of 2;4 Pete begins asking “why”-questions.
Date of publication in German: 18.5.10
Translation: Arno Zucknick
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