Infants learn from experience: they learn by open ended exploring of the possibilities that present themselves on a moment to moment basis. Sometimes they need undisturbed time for doing this.
But they will often spend more time exploring and trying out new things in the company of a social partner. Infants take great pleasure in sharing their experiences with social partners: they enjoy sharing their interest in new and different toys or events, they sometimes seek reassurance, and often ask for help.
Infants are very sensitive to the quality of the attention that their social partner brings to shared time. They thrive on having a social partner who is fully present, who is sensitive to their communication attempts and their changing interests. In other words a mindful companion.
They will often react badly if a social partner is distracted: after a while they simply withdraw and may even mirror the partner's distracted behaviour.
Sometimes the social partner's role is just to be present and share the experience by exchanging glances or responding to requests for help.
Here you see Toesies aged 10 months taking great pleasure in a new rattle. He spends time shaking it in different directions and at different speeds. He also stops briefly and glances at me to check whether I am sharing in his pleasure.
At some point the rattle falls out of his hand and lands too far away for him to reach. He wants the rattle back and uses his available communication resources to get my attention and request help in retrieving the rattle: he vocalizes his distress, looks at me and then at the rattle and points towards the toy.
At 10 months Toesies has already learned to initiate an episode of joint attention.
Many opportunities for mindful shared time
- Some shared games might involve taking turns.
- There are times when the social partner may provide encouragement that keeps a game going for a long time.
- Then there are anticipation and hiding games that are very interactive.
- Bouncing on the knee and dancing games are opportunities for sharing the joy of moving abundantly.