Toddlers, Cats and the Curiosity Experiments

Photo by Luke Southern on Unsplash

If you have ever been around toddlers, one of the things that you would notice is that they tend to repeat the same “mistakes” often. I’m not talking about learning mistakes here. Rather, I’m talking about misbehaviour and negative attention seeking actions.

Toddlers can sometimes be quite similar to cats in how they behave. They know what they’re doing is wrong (or unacceptable) and yet they just want to see what happens (including how we react — emotionally and physically).

Kids often do something and observe your reaction. Then they will do it again and again and again. Whilst this is frustrating to watch and have to deal with repeatedly, it’s quite interesting to view it from a toddlers perspective. They are just little scientists conducting experiments and testing out theories.

Here’s what I think it looks like from my kids perspective,

“if I throw a tantrum for 15 minutes, I tend to get what I want

“Nope!! It only took me 10 minutes today before dad gave me the cookie

“Okay, this is strange. It took about 19 minutes today. What are the variables? Dad seemed calmer and more patient. Was it because this was in the morning? Okay, I will try again.

“Okay, this is getting interesting, it took 6 minutes today. Dad seemed tired after work. I should make a note of this and save it in my back pocket.

“Oh wow. . . We’re out in public. I should try and see what happens here! Oh yes, it worked. Shortest time ever. Is this replicable? Would it also work with mum? So many questions. . . So many variables

I don’t actually know the thought process that goes through my kid’s (or any other kid for that matter) head is. Somehow, I doubt that these are conscious thoughts and behaviours. However, if we look at how the learning process takes place, we’ll see that it makes a little sense. Kids mainly learn through observation, trial and error. Variables are introduced, outcomes are observed, events are analysed and learning occurs.

That’s why kids tend to be brave. They don’t know what falling is like, so they jump from chair to chair. If the consequence is severe enough, they might quit that particular experiment. If it is successful, they may look for higher platforms to jump from.

They will play with insects and eat things they are not supposed to. Trial and error. I wonder what happens here. “Oh, that’s gross. Make a note to never try that again!!

When I first came across this train of thought (thanks Netflix), it struck me as very intriguing, because I began to see this not only in toddlers, but also in adults at various stages. I hope to expand on this thought on another day.



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Nabil Murad

Nabil Murad

Full time professional youth basketball with an avid interest in meta-learning. Passionate about youth development, behavioural psychology and storytelling