Q: Why is "drop the spoon" such a fun game for babies?
A: Through exploration, babies are learning about the objects in their world. They are very curious about questions like, What can I make this thing do? Can I make it do that again? So…they bang, drop, toss, and squeeze. What babies learn through this experimentation is that the same action can lead to different consequences. Each time I drop the spoon over the side of the high chair, it falls to the floor and makes a noise. But it makes a different sound and ends up in a different place each time. Babies repeat actions over and over again until they are convinced that, indeed, every time it will be different in some ways and the same in some ways.
Through games like this, babies begin to develop rules about objects. When I drop an object, it will make a noise and land out of reach—though the noise and final location will vary a bit each time. And, they learn over time that this rule will hold true not just for the spoon, but for the bowl, and the cup, and the rattle. Babies are fascinated by learning this rule. In addition, learning new concepts through play builds self-confidence and self-esteem: I’m a good problem-solver. And most importantly, babies learn that learning is fun.
This response was developed in partnership with Robert Weigand, Director, Child Development Laboratory, Arizona State University.