Child Development and Storytime: Depth Perception and the “Overboard” Game!




I love to tell my storytimers that their babies are scientists, and for them, every interaction is an experiment. They’re always trying to answer the question of “what will happen if I…” and with each result, they’re gathering statistics. (If I cry, most of the time something good will happen. I will get snuggles or food or maybe a toy.) Between 4-8 months, things start to get interesting as baby’s spatial awareness begins to develop and, for the first time, she begins to show depth perception. All of a sudden, she’s aware that the changing table is kind of high and she could fall. Ahh! But she’s also starting to understand that objects behave in a certain way when height, distance, and force are involved.

I see this all the time with the very popular Overboard Game.

In “Overboard,” a baby takes whatever objects are handy and throws or drops them. This is absolutely delightful to them if there’s some kind of drop or ledge to use, too. Got a toy in the crib? It’s going overboard. Did you carefully place a sippy cup on the high chair? Overboard! Did you give baby your keys to jingle while you push them in a stroller down the grocery aisle? They’re going overboard, too.

Just watching this happen in the narrow time windows I’m allowed is exhausting, so I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it must be when it’s happening all. day. long. This is why I think it’s fun to share with parents that this is a normal, healthy part of baby’s development and that–hey, everytime baby throws something, he’s experimenting in basic physics AND figuring out if he likes the way you react. This is all innocent play for him, but it’s also serious business in building the way he communicates and relates to you.

If you’re doing storytime for babies, there’s a couple ways this could come up.

One, this fantastic book that helps parents realize, “YES! There’s a whole book about it! So, then, my child is not the only one acting like a jerk and this might be a normal thing that she’s going through. What a relief!”

Or, you might notice during playtime that babies really love reaching into your toy box and throwing all the items out. Or just throwing the sensory balls across the room with no intention of getting them back. Or maybe they want to actually climb into the toy box so they can better toss out all the things. You might see some parents get a little embarrassed by this, but there’s no reason for that. If you want to describe it to them, I find that this kind of analogy helps:

Do you remember Nintendo? Do you remember when Super Nintendo came out and things looked better but then…OMG DONKEY KONG COUNTRY?! There were graphics and dimensions in that game that you didn’t know could exist and it blew everybody’s mind. That’s kind of what your baby is experiencing right now and he is amazed because, not only do those dimensions exist, but they’re bringing him closer to you.

So, there you have it. I’m not a child psychologist or a cognitive/behavioral scientist, so there are lots of people who are more expert than me. I hope this comes in handy nonetheless.

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