Yes, as a teacher Pump Mama has one major rule for all adults everywhere: Never underestimate the intelligence or abilities of children — no matter the age.
This means that at the age of six months, babies get it. They get when you cater to them, they get when they have gotten the best of you, they get how to get your attention, they get it, man. Do not be fooled! To think otherwise is to limit their own capabilities.
Pump Mama will give you three examples of what she means.
First, when PM’s child was just about six months old and in a rocker chair with a bottle, Pump Mama walked away after saying, “Stay with Papa. I’ll be right back.” That child roared and acted like it was torture to be away from mom. PM marched right back into the room, knelt down to be at the same eye level and said lovingly yet firmly, “Baby, you stop this nonsense right now. You are with Papa, you will drink your milk, and you will behave. I will be back in a few moments.” For some reason, Papa was dumbfounded that this worked. Children are very aware and will rise to the level of expectation placed before them. Remember this.
The second example of assuming children at any age can understand things is when Pump Mama’s child showed an interest in using an allen wrench to turn an allen bolt on a tricycle. This was well before the second birthday.
Instead of taking the tool away and “Tsk, tsking” the child to do something more “age-appropriate,” PM demonstrated how turning the bolt one way tightens it and how turning it the other way loosens the bolt. (Lefty-Loosie, Rightie-Tightie, BTW.) That child was occupied for more than a few minutes, a record by most standards at that age!
Pump Mama’s third and favorite example of allowing children to learn and grow based on the assumption that they can is when she taught her second-graders to understand and then recite verses from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the Abbott and Costello skit, “Who’s on First?”
Those children loved acting out the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet with such dramatic flare! And, when they understood the punny-ness of “Who’s on First?” their eyes came alive with joy at understanding something so “adult.” Having said all that, it does take time to plan how to explain those classics to such young minds in a fun and interesting way. However, it is more than possible!
So, before underestimating children of any age or before shooing them away from something, stop and take a moment to ask yourself if there really is any harm in letting the exploration begin and if you can’t take an extra moment out of your day to demonstrate or teach something they could probably understand with the right amount of patience.