When you are around babies, you know that they seem to learn quite quickly, but did you know how quickly babies learn? As it turns out, the human brain grows more than 1 billion new neural connections every second in an infant’s first few years of life! So what does this mean for us parents? It means that we need to find clever ways to help our little ones learn as much as possible so that they can reach their full potential when they grow up. And here are just five fascinating facts about how babies learn that might surprise you!
While babies have a lot of instincts, they also have to learn about their world. Just like we do as adults, babies are learning how to move around and interact with their environment—and they need plenty of practice in order to learn how to do these things safely. In fact, every year until they’re six years old, most kids learn something new when it comes to motor skills! The best part is that parents can help their little ones reach these milestones (yes, they’re a lot of fun!). For example, you might push your infant around in a stroller or swing; or bounce them on your knee while you sing songs.
Babies learn to communicate through sounds and gestures. At birth, babies can already make a few basic sounds, such as cooing, laughing, and crying. Through these actions, they begin to let their parents know when they’re hungry or tired and need to be fed or rocked back to sleep. Babies also use more than just words in their attempts at communication; for example, if a baby is sick or uncomfortable with something that’s happening, he may squirm around until his mother picks him up and rocks him back to comfort. Though it takes months for babies to start forming coherent sentences (about 18 months), they are far from being silent during that time!
In a baby’s first years, emotional skills are more important than physical or intellectual ones. From birth to about two years old, children learn mostly by observing and imitating others in their environment. In their first six months, they grow accustomed to routine sounds, movements, and touch — such as swaddling or being bounced on a parent’s knee — that they will later associate with comfort and security. They also begin learning language through listening and watching other people’s facial expressions and tone of voice. As your child grows into an active toddler, games that focus on physical development — such as playing peek-a-boo with her face or helping her practice walking — help build strong muscles for walking, running, and jumping later on.
Children begin to develop cognitively around 6 months, as they learn more about cause and effect. They’re able to recognize their own reflection in a mirror, which usually happens around 18 months. Around 30 months, kids understand that things don’t exist only when they’re visible; for example, if an object is covered with a blanket, it still exists even though you can’t see it. Children learn about what others are thinking between 18-24 months old as well; for example, if you smile or laugh at them doing something silly in front of a mirror or another person. Kids reach full mental development at approximately 12 years old; however, their brains continue to grow throughout adolescence and adulthood as new neural connections are made and strengthened.
Infants learn best through their senses—and parents can capitalize on that to give their babies a head start. Sensory information provides valuable stimulation for babies, giving them essential information about how to move around and interact with their world. They have many ways of gathering that info: touch, sight, taste, hearing, and smell. Through early interaction with their environment and caregivers, infants begin to make sense of what they see and hear—forming a foundation for future learning.