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“The movements the child acquires are not chosen haphazardly, but are fixed, in the sense that each proceeds out of a particular period of development. . . . If you watch a child, you will see that he is always playing with something. This means that he is working out and making conscious something that his unconscious mind has earlier absorbed. Through this outward experience, in the guise of a game, he examines those things and impressions that he has taken in unconsciously. . . He is directed by a mysterious power, great and wonderful, that he incarnates little by little. In this way, he becomes a man. He does this with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instrument of man’s intelligence.”

Maria Montessori

This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out so strongly that no child under the age of two should be allowed to sit in front of a television set. They must be encouraged to move purposefully. Little chil-dren must learn the rules and the procedures of the society in which they live. An infant in a high chair will repeatedly drop an object over the side. It’s a form of research about the fact that if the object sits on the chair’s table, it stays at that level; if it is placed just past the edge of the table, it goes to the floor. And it does it every time. It’s repeatable and verifiable data.

Children do not understand the language of reasoning until around age six. They need clear demonstrations along with words. It is very helpful for parents to realize that their child is not trying to be bad; instead, he is being a normal, intelligent human being trying to find out how to behave. He is carrying out research.

A good example is the meaning of “no”. My friend and her daughter Julia were visiting in our home. Julia had climbed up on the piano bench and was reaching for the bust of Mozart. As she reached toward, it, she looked expectantly at her mother, obviously for some kind of response. The mother said, “No, don’t touch it.” Julia stopped, lowered her hand, and then reached toward it again. The mother said “No” again, a little louder. Again the daughter reached and looked at her mother. Julia needed to have “No” demonstrated to her. She was perfectly happy when her mother picked her up and put her in another area with another interesting activity. It’s research. The child needs to be shown what to do and how to do it with quality equipment and lots of patience and good humor. It helps if we can understand, and even enjoy, that it’s just research.