Sunday, May 25, 2014

NDNorth: The Purple Block

We try to assess the little ones every month, to track their development and help give the orphanage some insight into what normal children should be doing at each age. The nannies and shift leaders and managers are usually very good with the children, but when we mention things such as "tummy time at one-month" they gasp and gape with disbelief. Many of them have never had children of their own, and if they did oftentimes grandma did most of the rearing, and so a majority of the childcare experience they have is through training and then watching the development of under-stimulated orphans.

There are always a couple of developmental goals that take the children extra long to complete. Building blocks is one. Why? Well, blocks aren't always the most common toys in baby playrooms, and it really does take some guidance for a 12-18 month old to learn that it's fun to knock over a block tower. The nannies don't have much time to work with the babies on this "vital" skill during their shifts, so it's one of the activities that we bring out whenever we visit.

The first step is always building a tower for the kids, and then helping them knock it over. This particular day, though, Philip had little interest in knocking a tower down. He was more interested in stacking the blocks together, one block in his right and and another block in his left. It didn't quite work that way. Need some help, buddy?

Something funny happened when Philip started getting the hang of stacking blocks on the floor. The first level of his tower was a yellow block, and that one stayed stable. The next block was purple. It took a few tries and a lot of encouragement, but finally Philip put the purple block on top of the yellow block. We clapped. We cheered. We told Philip that he was amazing and encouraged the nannies to cheer for him as well.

Philip looked up in shock - somehow he had just done something amazing. He liked the response, so he began to try to recreate whatever it was that he had done to cause us all to cheer. It must have had something to do with the purple block, he must have thought, because that's suddenly what he became fixated on. A few more times he put the purple block on top of the yellow... and he got the same cheers and hugs. But then we showed Philip how he could put a blue block on top of the purple and he became very confused when we clapped for that.

That was Philip's first block-building breakthrough. The next week he did even better. Just check out his progress!

Two blocks...

You clapped for the light blue block? So do I take it off now?

Oh, add another one? That's a strange idea, but okay.

This is a lot harder than it looks. Balance, block, balance. 

And here history is made! Philip's first time ever stacking four blocks. Except that the fourth block knocked the whole tower down. But it still counts, at least we think that it does. 

And judging from Philip's face, he does too. 

Either that, or he just found the purple block hiding behind his tower. 

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