Not your mother’s view: the dynamics of toddler visual experience


Linda B. Smith, 1101 East 10th Street, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA; e-mail:


Human toddlers learn about objects through second-by-second, minute-by-minute sensory-motor interactions. In an effort to understand how toddlers’ bodily actions structure the visual learning environment, mini-video cameras were placed low on the foreheads of toddlers, and for comparison also on the foreheads of their parents, as they jointly played with toys. Analyses of the head camera views indicate visual experiences with profoundly different dynamic structures. The toddler view often consists of a single dominating object that is close to the sensors and thus that blocks the view of other objects such that individual objects go in and out of view. The adult view, in contrast, is broad and stable, with all potential targets continually in view. These differences may arise for several developmentally relevant reasons, including the small visuo-motor workspace of the toddler (short arms) and the engagement of the whole body when actively handling objects.