I walk into a crowded room. Looking over his father’s shoulder, a 1-year old notices me, and keeps looking. I return his look as I approach him. I smile. He gives me a small smile. He is not committed to this new friendship yet, although he is clearly courteous. ‘We know each other, don’t we?’ I say to him. In response, he cocks his head, and continues to examine me. This is one very alert child, I think to myself. There are so many children like that, who observe people with interest.
A different manifestation of an alert child is one who observes things. Carried by a parent, such a child will point frequently at something of interest. But, where and how did that very young child learn to point with a forefinger? Such a child seems to be saying ‘Look at that.’ Or, ‘What is it?’ Of course, there is not much scope for observing freely lots of new things in a childcare centre. In a low employment area, however, little children can explore an interesting world in the company of their mothers. Regretfully, I have known too many little children whose mothers have not been available to them to point out all those interesting things; but they would not know what they had been denied.
Yet, I have observed little ones who do not seem to be interested in anything. Yet, such a child could appear healthy and well cared for.
What determines the variations in approach by little children?