Thursday, December 16, 2004

Who's That Baby in the Mirror?

I've read that by 15-18 months, babies may begin to recognize themselves in the mirror. And the conventional wisdom seems to be that a way to help them do this is to put a smear of shaving cream on baby's face while she's looking in the mirror, and see if she notices that it's on her own face.

Well, the shaving cream idea seems ridiculous to me. Let's be honest: a baby is going to put whatever you smear onto her face directly into her mouth. So I decided to experiment with Ellie and some whipped cream. It turns out that Ellie loves whipped cream. She's no dummy; she turned away from the mirror and opened up her mouth at the can of Reddi-Wip like she was a little birdie waiting for her mama to drop in a worm. So of course I obliged her with a good squirt.

But did it work? Did she see the smear on her face in the mirror and reach for her own cheek to get it? Not quite. At 14 months, Ellie saw the smear in the mirror and wanted the whipped cream badly. So she leaned in toward the mirror slowly, slowly. She became a little frustrated because when she'd turn her mouth to get at the whipped cream, the baby in the mirror turned its head too, moving the whipped cream perpetually out of reach. Ellie compensated by lining up again, coming in slowly, cheek aimed at the mirror, then snapping her mouth around at the last moment. This approach was more successful than you might think. She succeeded in smearing whipped cream on the mirror with her cheek, then getting some into her mouth. Not too bad!

I love watching her learn. This week she's also busy putting objects into containers and using shape sorters (with help) and is starting to try to put rings onto the stacker toys rather than just taking them off. And she loves feeding herself with a fork, though we stab the food for her. So fun!

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