Deliberate. Purposive. On purpose. On accident.
Our first mentors and coaches are our parents. They determine, from our first days, our exposure to the world. They curate our experiences. They vary our inputs. Our caretakers ensure our stimulation and absence of stimulation. All of this activity rushes to the senses unmitigated and without preference by our nervous system. There is no internal discrimination between sound and noise.
From a cognitive standpoint, we are open–a stormdrain. A waterfall.
It is easy to see every movement of the child as an instinctual motion of comfort or need. After that, it is easy to see how activity is Hebbian: developmental, appropriate, necessary, and purpose-driven. It is in our genetic code to repeat, practice, and perfect–to prepare ourselves to engage with a world that demands engagement.
Typical of most situations, caretakers return to work after the honeymoon period that follows childbirth. Emotions do not diminish but practicality of employ and schedule returns and the rhythmicity of life begins to influence the habitudes of the young. Arranging time for play is the most important thing that can occur in this period as it is play that prepares the young mind for the confounds of the ‘real’ world. In the same way that young cats at the zoo or the wild wrestle, stalk, and bite to prepare for the hunt, our offspring require experience and exploration. Whether you believe that it is age-driven, chemically driven, a function of input capacity, or a mix of them all, you likely mediate their experiences (or at least you should) based on those beliefs. Why would you not?
Look at a seed about to be planted into the ground and see the plant that it will become. If you have never placed a bean into a styrofoam cup on your kitchen window, I advise it. Become accustomed to small seeds becoming full grown entities. Look at that small scratch on the hood of your car. Become accustomed to the development of that scratch into a rusted line and eventually a hole. Get used to the fact that working with your hands produces calluses, deformations of those once straight fingers, knurled scars that tell stories over time; get used to it all.
Get used to the idea that every activity in which a child engages–and with whom they engage in it–grows to become a developed portion of who they are. Some of these skills and behaviors will thankfully become automatic. Consider the ability of the vestibular system to right itself through a triple failsafe system of canals of the inner ear, vision, and musculature. This is a skill that may be taken for granted in the adult but was practiced and refined over and again in so many ways that looked nothing like walking.
That is to say: One did not become a competent walker by walking.
Every engagement or failure to engage shapes the habits and decisions of the person that will be. In some ways it is like trying to operate a tropical fish tank without any tools or measures. Haphazardly managing pH levels. Hoping that the food is enough. Wondering if the water is too warm. Thinking that maybe we should have bought the book. Reconsidering the addition or subtraction of variables that caused some of the residents to quicken, slow, lean, or gulp float.
It is all practice. It all shapes and it all sets us on the path toward becoming.
How actively will we engage in this system?
It does happen without us. It will happen without us.
It does not guarantee Expertise or even competence.