WATCH A BABY AT 5 MONTHS AS YOU HANG A mobile over his diapering table. He stares at the mobile. His whole body responds with interest. As he waves his hands and feet, they may set the mobile in motion. Amazing! Thrusting his little legs, the baby tries to keep the mobile moving. He, as yet, has no notion of "intentionality" he did not set out to create such interesting patterns in the air, but his innate curiosity drives him to continue swiping or kicking at the mobile for a long time (sometimes up to 20 minutes).

Toddler curiosity, however, is fueled by knowledge that permits the child to try to figure out what is happening. Toddlers will "experiment" with all sorts of objects that arouse their curiosity. How does that toy work? If pushing, pulling, and turning won't make the toy work, maybe banging it will! A toddler is driven by curiosity to learn all about the world. He has more sophisticated techniques now. He knows that turning knobs may open a door to an off limits closet with interesting junk piled up. He sees just the toy that interests him at the bottom of a pile of toys and merrily tosses everything else aside to get at just the item that interests him. This behavior is not "naughty." It simply reflects the curiosity and persistence of the toddler.

Making Choices

Tiny babies make choices very early. They prefer to sip on sweet, rather than sour, liquids. If presented with a cotton swab saturated with a bitter smelling substance, they choose to turn their heads away from the swab. Research tells us that such choices occur when babies are only a few days old! Indeed, research confirms that by 2 days old, a baby can recognize a breast pad soaked in his own mother's milk: The baby turns toward that pad rather than one soaked with milk from another mother.

Toddlers struggle with choices daily. They want to grow up into sturdy autonomous preschoolers. Yet they still long to be cuddled and indulged as little babies. So often they will defy an adult request simply to prove that they have a will of their own. Yet, when scared or tired or ill, the toddler may "choose" to sit on teacher's lap or be carried on her hip for hours, just as he was when much younger.  

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