Q: My baby just loves to splash in the tub. She laughs like crazy while she’s getting me soaked. I laugh too—at her having so much fun. But what’s going on, why is this so funny for her?
A: Experiences like splashing in the tub give your baby a chance to test and explore. When she is splashing, she is also learning: What happens when I splash? What happens when I splash in a different way? Now this way? She is learning about cause and effect and which qualities of water change and which stay the same when she splashes each time. This helps her understand the features, characteristics, and qualities of water. In other words, what makes water water? Repeated, careful, organized experiments (also known as play) are required to develop the understanding that something remains the same no matter what is done to it or how it might be changed. For example, your baby understands that the milk in her bottle or your breast is “milk.” She also learns that: the milk on her hand and fingers is “milk”; the milk pouring from the half-gallon container is “milk”; the puddle of milk on the high-chair tray is “milk”; and the puddle of milk on the floor is “milk.” Learning about these relationships is a constant source of wonder and delight to your baby.
This answer was developed based on input from Robert Weigand, Director, Child Development Laboratory, Arizona State University.