You drive too fast and you get a ticket. Cause and effect. You’re late to work and your boss gets angry. Cause and effect. Your workday is crappy so you need a beer. Cause and … mmm, effect. Clearly, this relationship between actions is important, and your kid is going to need to figure it out pretty dang quick. The idea of cause and effect develops pretty naturally for most kids, but there are still ways you can help it along (and not just by reading If You Give A Mouse A Cookie …). Read this and get educated. Principle of causation, yo.
Kick And Spin
There is a natural flow to the way kids learn about chains of events. It turns out that the understanding that doing A makes B happen occurs pretty early in a kid’s life and continues even after after they’ve made the gazillionth mistake.
According to researchers at UC Berkeley babies as young as 2 months old could work out the general idea. They showed that when babies were given a mobile that moved in response to kicking legs, the babies kicked more often to make the mobile move. It was a lot of kicking, but not INXS.
At about 3 months, babies are beginning to understand that when they cry or laugh, their caregivers respond in certain ways. Like entering the room or smiling, or taking another shaky sip from that shiny flask.
6 To 12 Months
Once your kid is a little bit older, the cause and effect game turns into straight up experimentation. They begin to understand that pushing the red button on the toy makes the noises and lights go (and makes you crazy). And they figure out that when they drop something off the high chair that you’ll pick it up over and over (while slowly going crazy). Basically, your kid learning cause and effect will make you crazy.
Why It’s So Important
The concept of cause and effect is the foundation for a whole bunch of future skills. It might be driving your nuts, but it’s also laying a foundation for things like math skills. Cause and effect also sets a framework for scientific study later in life.
Finally there are the social aspects. Cause and effect is linked to good relationships. It’s also important for your kid to be able to join in on the social contract that we all share, like following laws and certain etiquette. Like, if you text while talking to someone expect that phone to be slapped out of your hand.
How To Help It Along
It’s a good thing for human infants that the adults of the species don’t necessarily need to do anything to instill the understanding of cause and effect. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the action with a little cause and effect play. Here are some simple activities:
Tower Blocks: You build the tower and they knock it down (repeat)
Wild Water: Fill a bucket or bowl with water, help your kid make waves. Extra points for adding a floaty toy.
Bang A Gong: Give a lid and a wooden spoon. Let them go wild.
Roll Away: Roll a ball back and forth with your baby. Classic!
And, you can always play Human Mobile or What’s In The Box. The key is to be patient and understand many of the annoying behaviors your kid is exhibiting is for a good reason. Foundations are being laid, so that they know when they give a mouse a cookie, it’s going to want a glass of milk to go with it. What happens to the mouse after the milk — that’s between you and the exterminator.