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Your child's sense of self

First steps and first words are milestones that get tweeted, texted, and posted. Some other developmental accomplishments are equally amazing, yet go relatively unnoticed. Consider your child’s discovery that she has an identity separate from anyone else’s. That’s major. Your child becomes aware that “I am me, and you are you, and we’re not the same.” This sense of self comes on strong in the second year, and a good way to observe and explore it is through puppet play. At first, a child might think that a puppet is some kind of animate object, like maybe a dog, but not quite. Then, a child acquires an imagination and understands that the puppet is pretend. He knows it doesn’t have a life of its own when it isn’t on Mom’s hand. Finally, the child discovers that he can give the puppet a personality. He can make it move and talk, but he knows that the puppet isn’t really him. Now your child can ponder about how other people have ideas separate from his own, how they have feelings that are separate from his own, and how they even have lives that are separate from his own.

Try this @Home: Puppets are kind of magical. Slide a puppet on your hand and start a conversation with your child. Give the puppet his own voice and personality, don’t break character, have the puppet make “eye contact” and start a real conversation—and you may be amazed that at how willing your child will be to chat.

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