Monday, May 2, 2011


As I was rocking my sweet little one last night, I started thinking about Piaget and all of his theories and stages that children go through.  He is the famous child development guru that I'm sure you all studied in Psych 101...a distant blur of a memory I'm sure. I had to take Child Development like 3-4 times for each major and degree so it was branded in my brain. Do any of you remember his famous terms: Object permanence, conservation, pre-operational?

The terms that stuck out to me most recently are assimilation and accommodation. I remember getting these terms so confused when studying them (and 20 other terms at the same time) but now it all makes sense because I can finally apply them to my own child!  (I am now thinking I should have titled this post, Piaget #1 as there will be plenty more to talk about with him as time goes on).

What is Assimilation? It is when a child interprets new experiences in terms of their existing ones. What? Basically it means when your child sees something new to them, they try to fit it into what they already know and figure out what the heck this new thing/object is.

This concept hit home with me recently with our two dogs and a petting zoo from over the weekend.

Let me explain:  So, our dogs are the first animals she has ever encountered and are 4 legged furry things.  She definitely knows what they are as I have taught her the 2 sign language signs for dog which if you are learning baby sign language, is a panting sound with your tongue hanging out. But the traditional ASL one is patting your thigh like you are trying to get a dog to come to you.  She is finally learning and just started the panting sound around our dogs, so adorably cute! When she sees other dogs outside she is starting to get excited and pant too, just amazing to me.

What does that have to do with anything?

Well, this weekend she saw a few horses at a petting zoo and was just in awe of them. As she was staring at them, the whole Assimilation thing came to mind. I thought to myself, she is trying to fit this new looking animal into her current mental images. She's probably thinking, "hmm, it has 4 legs like my doggies do, but it sure is a lot bigger, so I guess this animal is just a big big dog!" If she could speak she would probably call it a 'doggie' as she is assimilating it into her brain.  She got all excited and I think she was doing the sign for dog but not sure-wishful thinking.  She has never seen a real horse either, so to her any furry 4 legged animal is a dog.

Now, in a few months time she will start to think, "hmm, this animal sure doesn't bark like a dog and has different feet", and she will start to process this new animal into her existing images.  Once she gets a little older and modifies her current images she will be accommodating for this new experience (animal). That's when she will start asking, "What dat?" and go into the whole "why" question drama.  She is trying to fit in these new experiences and at this point has figured out that these things are indeed different.

Make sense?  It's a concept we all understand but have probably never really given much thought.

It is super cute to watch her look at new animals, people, sights and sounds and try to process all of these new experiences. It really makes you think and wonder what is going on inside these little heads!  They are taking in so many new things that their senses must be overloaded. No wonder they need to get as much sleep as possible so their bodies can have time to rest and process everything they learned for the day.

Watching your child develop and learn new concepts is one of the most amazing experiences.  They are so entertaining that we no longer need to turn on the TV for entertainment! :)


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