I clearly the remember my 7-month-old daughter as she found herself staring at herself in the full length mirror in our bedroom. She totally stunned herself. In a crawl position, she posed with one hand raised and the other on the floor, looking intently at her eyes in the mirror. Slowly she crawled towards the mirror, reaching out to the baby reaching out to her. She actually touched the mirror before she seemed to realize that it wasn’t another baby.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a memory of how she responded to her mirror image as she aged into being three, but I suspect that once she had introduced herself to her mirror image, she reacted like most of us do–a glance, a second glance and then some sort of facial gesture, usually a smile for inner balance.
Our good friends at the Washington State Early Learning and Development Benchmarks (Nov 2004 Rough Draft) have given us some bench marks for our 18-36 month olds in the Social and Emotional Development area.
The Self-Concept presented here has to do with the following Goal:
Children perceive themselves as separate from others.
Some Indicators for Children:
- Tests limits and strives for independence
Recognizes and calls attention to self when looking in the mirror or at photographs
Uses own name
Shows awareness of being seen by others (e.g. exaggerates or repeats behavior when notices someone is watching)
- Occupies self appropriately for brief periods of time (e.g., 10-15 minutes).
Some Strategies for Caregivers:
- Give Child appropriate and varied choices.
- Allow child to test limits safely as he/she strives for independence.
- Encourage child to talk about self and others, especially cultural and linguistic characteristics.
- Be aware of cultural differences in valuing independence.
We often don’t recognize or appreciate the early steps into “individuation.” These are primary steps for the toddler to achieve, to allow and encourage this child to separate from Mom and family to explore new worlds (like pre-school and kindegarten). A child who has a healthy sense of self often will have greater freedom to explore the unknown and to be curious about all things.
One of the hallmarks of human intelligence is our ability to be curious and to act on that curiosity with internal strength of knowing ourselves to be able to cope with whatever that curiosity brings to us.
Be gentle with your curious child and applaud his/her efforts to “go where no child has gone before.”