Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fine motor skills

As some of you may be aware, I have an 11-old daughter named Emily. I have enjoyed every minute of watching Emily grow. When she was just a peanut, I watched her struggle to stay awake when her body insisted that it was time to sleep. I watched her figure out how to crawl and to stand. I suspect that she will be walking in a few weeks.

Emily's parents are no stranger to technology. We have entertainment devices with remote controls, cell phones, and computers. Emily sees us using that technology every day, and like every other baby, Emily wants to be like her parents. She loves to touch and play with all of it. If I use a remote control, Emily wants to do that, too, testing each button for a response from the TV. If I use my cell phone, Emily wants to move her fingers across the screen to see what will happen. If I use a computer, Emily becomes fascinated with the action of my fingers and the response on the display.

I can remember a few months ago, that I was sitting here, at my computer, holding Emily while talking with Alice, my wife. As I'm talking with Alice, Emily is leaning to the keyboard, like she wants to do something with it. So I turn with her to let her have at the keyboard.

Emily wants to put the keyboard in her mouth, but with a few gentle lessons I'm able to convince her that the keyboard doesn't go in her mouth. A few more visits with the keyboard and Emily is starting to smack the keyboard with an open hand. She sees a response on the screen. So I open a new word processing document and let her have at it.

Emily sees characters appearing on the screen, but not many because she is smacking the keyboard with her open hand. I try to demonstrate, but her motor skills are not capable of selectively pressing keys.

Fast forward to yesterday. I'm sitting in the computer chair to check my email, Google+ and Facebook. Emily sees the keyboard and wants to try again. I open a new word processing document and let her have it again. This time is much different. She is showing much more discretion with the way she handles the keyboard. She is much more careful to press keys to get a response now.

More interesting is that she seems to have noticed the mouse when she didn't before - maybe she's been watching Mom at work on her computer. She moves the mouse around to see if there is any response on the screen. She scrolls the mouse and gets a response. I could see a continuous process at work here. Press this or move that, check for response on screen. She really likes this. I try to take her away to give her a bath, but she cries for more.

I even learned something new about my computer while she was working on it. As she was playing with the mouse, she put my computer into overview mode, which shows me my current desktop to the left and to the right, shows me all the other virtual desktops. While in overview mode, she scrolled the mouse and that switched desktops. This was a surprise to me, as I did not know that I could scroll between the desktops with the mouse.

To give you and idea of what this looks like, see the video below:

Of course, as this is happening, Emily has no idea that anything of interest has transpired. But I'm interested because she showed me that I can scroll the mouse between desktops when I only knew that I could use keyboard shortcuts to do the same thing.

I was already expecting Emily to be my teacher, but not like this. This is yet another happy coincidence as I learn to be a father. In time, I'm sure I will learn more as a student parent, but for now, I'm enjoying the spectacle of watching someone I love grow up.
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