Hypothesizing is the scientific term for an educated guess. The process of forming a hypothesis based on what you already know is something children continue to refine as they get older. But babies and toddlers learn to observe and take in information as they play, learning to predict what might happen to the objects they’re interacting with.
Can Toddlers Hypothesize?
Yes, but it’s simplified at this age. Toddlers tend to be less vocal when they make an observation or a hypothesis, often internalizing their thoughts instead.
You might see your toddler dump and refill a container of blocks several times, focusing intently on watching the blocks fall out over and over again. As your little one watches, they might consider what will happen if they added more blocks to dump out, or if kicking the container over will have a different outcome than using their hands to tip it over.
Hypothesizing in the toddler years relies heavily on cause and effect awareness, which develops through toddlerhood and into the preschool years. Toddlers learn what happens when they do certain things, such as making banging sounds when they hit a box. Each time a toddler changes how they play with something, they see a different outcome, which lays the foundation for forming predictions.
So every time you see your little one repeating the same things, or switching them up slightly, they’re working on the cause and effect awareness that leads to scientific thinking!
Hypothesizing and Scientific Exploration at Work in Toddlerhood
Scientific exploration is much more than simply science! It involves planning, critical thinking, and problem-solving – skills at the heart of learning in general. Scientific exploration relies on observing, asking questions, making predictions, and testing things out.
Here’s how the scientific thinking process might look in a toddler who’s playing with toy trucks:
- Observing: Your toddler rolls the truck across the floor, watching its wheels move. Your cat walks by and pushes another truck with its paw, sending it soaring across the room as your toddler watches.
- Asking questions: Your toddler wonders why that truck moved faster than the one in their hands.
- Hypothesizing: Your toddler pushes the truck with one hand, sending the truck zooming across the floor.
- Predicting: Seeing the truck move faster, your toddler might think that pushing the truck with both hands could make it go even faster still.
- Testing: Your toddler uses their hands to push the toy across the floor again and again. Eventually, they try other ways of moving the truck, like kicking it with their feet and rolling it off the edge of a chair.
In this example, your little one made it through a complete cycle of scientific thinking with just one toy! Hypothesizing is a pivotal piece of that process, requiring them to problem-solve in. order to achieve a specific outcome.
How can you help your toddler hypothesize and think scientifically? Play! You could ask questions that help them think, such as, “What do you think would happen if…” or “Do you think your picture would look different if we colored it with markers instead of crayons?” Even if your toddler doesn’t have an answer, you’re engaging their thinking skills.
You can find fun ways to engage your little one’s scientific thinking in our BabySparks program!