Affordances

Paper from week # 2 of early childhood development:

 

While watching the video, “The Journey through the Life Span, Part 1, Infants and Toddlers,” I chose to review the subject of affordances because it was not a term that I was familiar with in reference to early childhood (Worth Publishers, 2002). Affordances are the opportunities that are presented to individuals by everything that is in their environment that can be perceived or interacted with (Berger, 2012). Affordances are the things that are in a baby’s environment that can include, but is not limited to toys, food, and affection (Bergen, 2008).

Affordances can be any number of things that attract attention (Bergen, 2008). Babies enjoy exploring things that they can suck, grasp, hit, pat, roll, and shake. Development can be fostered by giving little children plenty of interaction, play time, and by offering materials that can be used in many ways. Infants have a preference for people, especially faces (Berger, 2012).  Babies delight in watching your face as you talk with them, touching your face, and watching you as you react to their sounds. Babies also love things that move, such as balls, mobiles, and the gentle blowing leaves on trees. As I thought about affordances, I could not help but compare my own childhood with current times, where there is now an overload of plastic and ‘complex’ infant toys with sounds and lights.

One of the most interesting things for me about affordances in this section of our text is the quote “You see what you expect or are trained to see, not what is there” (Berger, 2012, p. 169). This is a compelling thought. What we think we see is not what might actually be real. Perception is the “first step of information processing” (Berger, 2012, p. 169). Similar to what is input into a computer, a sensation is our information input, and the first step to process that information is perception. How something is perceived determines how it can be interacted with. Age has an effect on affordances as experience gives us a different perspective. Berger (2012) gives the example of a toddler’s desire to run in a meadow unaware of a bull grazing there.

Perception and affordances are explained by the research completed on depth perception (Worth Publishers, 2002).  Electronic monitoring showing changes in the baby’s heart rate proves that a small infant can see a drop at a visual cliff (Berger, 2012).  But the baby does not have the experience to understand that it will result in a painful fall. On the video, young children were faced with a gradually declining slope. The younger the child, the more eager the child was to take the slope with no caution. As the child ages, the child is more careful.  The child is able to not just see, but to cognitively process the danger (Worth Publishers, 2002).

Last fall, I had a teacher who mused that so many technological changes have happened over the past couple of decades, that it is hard to even fathom what the children of today will have in the future. The affordances of the future will change, as they have changed since I was young. I was not afforded computers when I was young, but in my daycare infants like to play at the computer by banging on the keyboard as young as eight months. Newborns are comforted by automated swinging bassinets.  From the experiences of my past compared to infants today, it seems like a different culture. Children in different cultures are afforded different opportunities. However, the preference for faces is rewarded across all cultures and all time, as is movement, even though what is moving might be significantly different.  This is an interesting topic, and I am glad that I am now familiar with it.

 

 

 

References

Bergen, D., Reid, R.,  Torelli, L., (2008). Educating and caring for very young children: the infant/toddler curriculum (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Berger, Berger, K. S. (2012). The developing person through childhood (6th ed.). New York, NY:

Worth Publishers.

Colin, V. (1991). Infant attachment: What we know now. US Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/reports/inatrpt.htm

Worth. (Producer). (2002). The journey through the life span, infants and toddlers [DVD]. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

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