Here are a few scientific findings that explain how children think:
Though they are learning words at 10 months old, infants tend to grasp the names of objects that interest them rather than whatever the speaker thinks is important. “The baby naturally assumes that the word you’re speaking goes with the object that they think is interesting, not the object that you show an interest in,” Hirsh-Pasek said. “Ten-month-olds simply ‘glue’ a label onto the most interesting object they see…” Later, around 18 months, children learn to use the speaker’s interest—such as where the eyes gaze—as a guide to learning, the researchers say.
At about the age of 18 months, children experience a “vocabulary explosion” that suddenly involves learning new words, left and right. Many parents likely remember being amazed by how smart their child seemed during this stretch. “They have to be learning more than one word at a time, and they must be learning a greater number of difficult or moderate words than easy words…” said a scientist. As long as there are more difficult words than easy words spoken to them, which is generally the case with languages, the vocabulary explosion will happen.
It seems everything you tell them either falls on deaf ears or goes in one ear and out the other. But that’s not how it works. Toddlers listen, they just store the information for later use, a new study finds. Three-year-olds neither plan for the future nor live completely in the present. Instead, they call up the past as they need it. “For example, let’s say it’s cold outside and you tell your 3-year-old to go get his jacket out of his bedroom and get ready to go outside,” a scientist explained. “You might expect the child to plan for the future, think ‘OK it’s cold outside so the jacket will keep me warm.’ But what we suggest is that this isn’t what goes on in a 3-year-old’s brain. Rather, they run outside, discover that it is cold, and then retrieve the memory of where their jacket is, and then they go get it.”
No one knows why 2-year-olds have temper tantrums, but most of them do. It starts with mild anger over something simple but then quickly escalates into full blown fury dramatized by screaming, fist pounding, foot-stomping, and screaming. The child also descends psychologically into a place where they can’t be reached by words or physical comfort, and parents stand by helpless and confused. Clearly, the child is distressed, but to the parent, the distress seems way out of proportion to the situation. And it is physically stressful for the child… Toddlers are driven by instinct and emotion, not thoughtful reasoning. Apparently, nothing infuriates toddlers more than adults’ logic. Toddlers just want to be heard and their emotions acknowledged and a tantrum is best controlled by the simple, “I hear you. I feel you.” All we have to do, even in the middle of the most embarrassing public tantrum, is to reach inside and feel that same frustration and anger with the world, and then bend down and say, “I know just how you feel.”