Helping your child learn could be as easy as playing a magic trick on them.
This video will tell you why:
Johns Hopkins University recently conducted a study which found that toddlers learn a lot from surprises, magic tricks and being shocked. Surprises help children make memories, which improves the way they learn new concepts, the study said.
To come to this conclusion, researchers showed a few different slight-of-hand tricks to 110 babies who were all 11 months old. One of those tricks included rolling a ball at a wall (which, through slight of hand, looked like it went through the wall). When those babies learned new concepts about the ball, like that it squeaks, they retained that information better since they had seen the ball used in a magic trick — and knew the ball doesn't normally function in the way they had just seen it used in the trick, the study said. Even babies at an early age seem to grasp basic scientific principles.
“Some pieces of knowledge are so fundamental in guiding regular, everyday interactions with the environment, navigating through space, reaching out and picking up an object, avoiding an oncoming object — those things are so fundamental to survival that they're really selected for by evolution,” Lisa Feigenson, a professor at Hopkins, told NPR.
The babies also played with the toys they had just seen used in surprises and did so in a way that showed they were trying to learn, NPR reported. They would smash, punch and roll the objects to see if they could figure out how they got through walls or were used in magic tricks.
“It seemed like they were seeking an explanation to the kind of surprising events they witnessed,” Aimee Stahl, a Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins University, told Time magazine. “If it was just novelty that was attracting them, they wouldn’t be so specific in the way they handled the objects.”
But if the object wasn’t a part of a magic scheme — like if the researchers just rolled the ball into a wall and left it there — children showed less interest in it. In fact, they decided not to pay attention to the object anymore and tossed it aside since there was nothing new to learn from it, Time reported.
This study is one of the first clues for researchers on how surprises are helping toddlers learn. These types of tricks and slights of hand show babies something different than what they already know from their inherent knowledge, which helps them grasp new concepts, Time reported.
“It raises exciting questions about whether surprise is something educators, parents and doctors can harness to enhance and shape learning,” Stahl told Time. “Our research shows that when babies’ predictions about the world don’t match what they observe, that signals a special opportunity to update and revise their knowledge and to learn something new.”
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.