Strategic locomotion in young walkers
May 13, 2015
One reason that young children make the switch from crawling to walking is so that they can move around with their hands free to carry interesting things, like toys. As young walkers gain experience and skill, they are likely to want to carry more (and bigger) items -- sometimes through doorways or into tight spaces. This often demands planning a locomotion strategy involving an item that extends past the child’s body height or width. In the current study, young children were asked to carry extended objects through small apertures, either tall objects through short doorways, or wide objects through skinny doorways. Their successes in completing the task, their adjustment strategies, and improvement over trials were evaluated. All children, even if they collided the object into the doorway, made appropriate adjustments that allowed them to cross through the apertures. Older children (24-37 months) made fewer errors (collisions) than younger children (15-23 months) for both apertures, and older children also exhibited more mature adjustment strategies. Both age groups made more errors on the tall, skinny doorway, but showed improvement over trials in this case. The age differences indicate an important role of long-term experience, while the improvement over trials indicates an effect of short-term experience. Our results contribute to growing literature exploring "embodied cognition" -- the ways that planning and problem solving are involved in seemingly simple motor activities.
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