Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Wonder Weeks App for iPhone: Review. Why Is My Normally Calm Baby Suddenly Crying and Naughty?

Strange things are afoot in the Savage-Darling household. It would appear that young Hunter is developing an appreciation for scientific enquiry. Thank God for the Wonder Weeks app, or I would be lost. Witness a typical daily occurrence:
Hunter: What happens if I pull the CD’s from the shelves? (Pulling a CD from the shelves)
Mummy: “Those are mummy’s. Put them back.” (Helping a reluctant Hunter put the CD’s back in the case, and showing him his tea set)
Hunter: (plays with the tea set for a while, considering the outcomes of his first experiment, before returning to the shelves to test out his new hypothesis) What happens if I pull the CD’s from the shelves, but turn and grin toothily at Mummy? (grabs a CD and grins at me)
Mummy (slightly raised voice. Firm clear tone): “Hunter, put the CD’s back. They are Mummy’s. Where are your toys? Play with your car.” (Helping an increasingly wriggly and reluctant toddler put the CD back on the shelf. Bodily removing Hunter from the area and putting him in front of his toy car)
Hunter: (running from the toy car, one cheeky lap around the dining table and then straight back to the shelves to test his latest hypothesis) What happens if I pull the CD’s from the shelves, and then throw them? (snatches and throws the CD on the floor in front of the shelves as I approach him)
Mummy (raised voice): “Hunter! Stop! You do not throw CD’s. They are Mummy’s. Put the CD’s back, then you can play with your toy car.” (Hunter throws himself at the ground in what for all intents and purposes appears to be a show of temper. Hunter’s head slams into the tiles, and the tears become tears of pain, not rage. Cuddles and cooing noises to calm him, before putting him in his room in front of his toys. Hunter runs from the room, Mummy chases after him. A hilarious chasey game ensues, during which time Hunter develops a new line of enquiry).
Hunter: What happens if I grab a CD and run away with it before flinging it? (Grabs a handful of CD’s, cases clattering to the ground and he flings them across the room and then throws himself backwards onto the ground, struggling as I pick him up and berate him)
Mummy: “Hunter! Stop! Why are you being so naughty! Pick up the CD’s, put them back (struggles with screaming rage fuelled toddler, decides to just do it myself, and even then he reaches again for the CDs...)              

You can basically substitute CD’s for all manner of things- pushing the buttons on the dishwasher, sitting on the cat, pushing books off the bookshelf, opening the record player lid, pouring his sippy cup over the carpet... 

I have read on the newly updated Wonder Weeks app that this behaviour is perfectly normal for a child of his age. Cold comfort, I know, except that it is really fascinating to me to know why, and the Wonder Weeks is simply unequalled in explaining the why of baby-toddler behaviour.
Have you read the Wonder Weeks book or downloaded the app? If you are interested in cognitive development, want to know why your baby exhibits dramatic changes in personality or behaviour for weeks at a time (clinginess, crankiness and crying), or just want to see the world through your child’s eyes while discovering fun baby-age-appropriate games and activities I heartily recommend you download this app. 

Based on 35 years of research by Dutch researchers Hetty Vanderijt and Frans Plooij, the Wonder Weeks lays out a very clear road map of your babies mental (cognitive) development. Just as baby learns to roll, then sit, then pull up and walk; so too will baby master basic intellectual abilities before moving on to more complex notions (such as the rules which govern social interaction).  For example, baby will notice spatial distance (mum is far away from me! Cry!) before baby can link actions together to reach a goal (if I open my mouth and say ‘yum’ I get given more banana). As you can see, in the hierarchy of understanding our world, noticing that you aren’t always being hugged is less sophisticated that understanding if you make one particular sound while engaging in this activity, you get rewarded with more food.

The Wonder Weeks app shows you when your baby makes a mental development leap, which is extremely helpful because it is not as easy to see a mental leap as it is to see a physical one - unless you know the signs. Sometimes I’ll have noticed Hunter has been a real ratbag for a few days in a row, and it will dawn on me to look at the app and voila! The app has already predicted the behaviour change. The Wonder Weeks supplements this knowledge by explaining what your baby can understand, learn and do after this mental leap; and what you can do to help your baby during this development. It lists simple games and activities you can do with your little one that maximise the learnings of the current leap. Best of all it lets you know that you aren’t a bad parent; your baby hasn’t gone to hell in a hand basket; and this rough patch will be over soon- with the benefit of having a smarter baby at the end of it all. 

With regards to Hunter’s current ‘naughty’ behaviour, the app says that during this period my son is beginning to understand certain everyday principles like:
  • making plans,
  • actions and response, 
  • testing ‘what happens if’ (and ’ what happens if I do the same thing- slightly differently?’)
  • negotiating and bargaining, and 
  • using behaviour to get attention (temper tantrums / being sweet).

In other words, he isn’t deliberately flaunting the rules, he is simply trying to discover just what about his actions I object too, and accordingly, what else must he do to get what he wants. Before this moment, the concept that you can sometimes do things that aren’t allowed (for example, he is allowed to play in the backyard with an adult to supervise, he is only allowed to climb up onto the couch when an adult is there to sit with him) simply did not – in fact, could not- exist in his world.

These developmental leaps brings to mind the hours I spent on my cousins Commodore 64 playing Sim City- start with a farm, add shops, houses, industry and roads, soon you have a town- the game gives you a Mayors house. Your town grows bigger, you get a Town Hall. It becomes a city and you are rewarded with a Sports Stadium. You could never of had a Sports Stadium with just two houses to support it. You needed all the other development to make it happen- and the same goes for developmental leaps too.

The Wonder Weeks app has helped me understand why my previously well mannered, even tempered, calm and easy sleeping son has regressed into one who will not sleep through the night while simultaneously developing new and not-at-all-endearing traits such as hitting me in the face to get his way. It described to me how, while making a developmental leap, my son will pour all of his energy into understanding and exhibiting his knowledge, leaving very little left for things such as emotional intelligence, thus a clingy, crying, cranky baby! This has really helped me keep my temper during the rough times, and also helped my mother who often cares for him. 

The new updated app has sorted out some of the bugs which plagued the first version (such as small grammatical errors, and a fault in which sometimes my son would be referred to ‘she’). If you already own the app, update it. If you still aren’t sure if this app is for you, or if your child is 12 months or older, you can also buy single chapters of the book from the app store. I would like for it to have a little bit more information in the About TWW section (a word about the authors and the science), a link to my calendar which will ‘remind’ me my son is about to enter a new leap and also the ability from within the app to purchase the chapter in full- perhaps these are features we will see in the next update, as the developers are kind enough to continually improve their product. Four out of five stars. 

Buy The Wonder Weeks book here, or download the app via iTunes or Google Play for Android

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