Did you know that your baby is learning at this very moment? It may seem like your little one doesn’t learn much of anything- after all, we parents and caregivers attend to all their needs. We make sure they’re never hungry, their diapers stay clean, and their bodies stay clean and healthy. We give them blankets when it’s cold, we put fans nearby if it’s hot.
But when you talk to your baby, talk to other adults, or take them for a walk in their stroller- even play with their toys with them- they are learning. And by fostering and promoting this learning, you can end up with a child that’s prepared to take on preschool, kindergarten, and more, plus they’ll have a thirst for learning.
Let’s get into this topic – read on to learn more.
What Is Baby Learning?
You know about the developmental milestones your baby reaches during their first year. They will take the first step, say a word, and smile- all of which are important markers that denote your child’s development. These are evidence that your baby is learning and taking in the world around them.
Children do not reach these milestones by simply sitting around. They do it because adults speak with them, play with them, and expose them to the world (going for walks, having the baby sit with you during conversations with other adults/kids, etc).
Your baby is always learning. During their first year, they will learn how to put their vision in focus, reach out their hands toward items given to them, and explore by crawling around and putting things in their mouths.
Many types of learning are taking place. Cognitive learning, for instance, deals with language, thinking, memory, and reasoning. Language learning is also taking place as your baby learns the names of people, names of objects and animals, and understanding sounds.
Your baby is also learning what it means to form a bond. They form trust and love bonds with their parents and relatives, which promotes emotional and social development. Thus, it’s not only important to play and talk with your baby, but also to snuggle, hold, and kiss/hug them, too. It helps them form positive ideas on how to interact with other people as they grow.
Why Is Baby Learning Important?
As you can see, the first year matters so much for your little one. Babies who are granted the right early learning experiences in their lives achieve better concentration, behavior, perception, memory, and coordination as they grow older.
Parents and caregivers can have a huge impact on their child’s brain development and growth, which could help your child enjoy greater learning ability in the future. They could have an easier time in school picking up on the concepts and ideas their educators present them. They could also have a desire to learn, whether that is by reading, exploring outdoors, creating art, or something else.
Every parent can and should give their baby this opportunity.
Baby’s brains grow the fastest during the first year of their lives. It is a very critical period for learning, and research indicates that when babies are stimulated properly it has a positive influence on how well they learn, read and behave once they get to school.
Babies may also enjoy better confidence, better social skills, and better communication skills as a result.
You can read more of our articles about baby learning below…
- Top 10 Sensory Play Activities for 1-Year-Olds
- 11 Benefits of Sensory Play for Babies and Toddlers
- 10 Best Sensory Spinning Toys For Babies & Toddlers
- 6 Best Sensory Subscription Box Services for Kids
- 8 Best Sensory Mats For Babies & Toddlers
- Best Sensory Boards for Babies Reviewed
- Mathematics Activities For Infants
- Easy Ways to Practice Pincer Grasp with Your Baby
- Best Educational Toys for 9 to 12 Month Olds
- How To Make A Sensory Board
Baby Brain Development & Its Connection To Baby Learning
It is remarkable how quickly the brain grows during this formative year of life. Billions of cells and trillions of connections between the cells are formed. The brain of the baby grows to one-half its adult weight during its first three months, an incredible feat.
During these early life stages, most of the child’s taste for learning is established. Research into child brain development indicates that a child’s ability to do well in school is created during their early years.
Parents need not be overwhelmed. There is a huge amount of brain development and growth that can be packed into this early year so long as babies are given the chance to exercise and utilize their brains.
The human brain grows when in use, and the growth is complete once age 6 is reached. It doesn’t mean learning stops- certainly not! But, it does mean that the quality of our learning be affected by the foundation we got in our earliest years.
So what can parents do to promote baby learning? Let’s find out.
How to Promote Baby Learning
Firstly, movement is important. Did you know that movement is one of the best experiences you can give your baby to promote their learning? The brain of your baby grows via movement.
So, introduce movement to your baby early on. It will have a huge impact on the growth of their brain. Loving and fun activities centered around movement will stimulate emotional, physical, and intellectual growth. They will build your baby a solid foundation for a life of happiness, health, and learning.
What movement can you do? Rocking your baby, “Dancing” your baby to music, playing with toys, going for stroller walks, and even working out with your baby are all fun examples of ways you can help your baby learn. (And yes, baby workouts do exist- check Youtube or watch this video for one such example!) Just remember to keep safety at the forefront of all your movement activities.
Little ones are made to move. They are designed to develop along a timeline of physical mile-markers that happen in a specific sequence. It is a process that happens step by step. Each milestone grants them the experience needed to reach the next developmental milestone. These milestones have a direct correlation with the development of their brain.
Alongside babies’ development of movement skills, other parts of the brain are being stimulated and made ready for future opportunities of learning.
That being said, we must be careful not to rush a baby along in the developmental stages. Your child’s brain will develop in time with lots of practice, experiences, and play sessions to internalize motor skills learned. These experiences and the quality of movements within each developmental stage will determine how much brain growth takes place.
So, parents- rest assured you don’t have to take your child to a special school or spend piles of money to make this happen. By exposing your child to various experiences, reading to them, talking to them, playing with them, and demonstrating healthy emotional behaviors, you can lay a strong foundation for your baby’s future.
Tips on Baby Learning
Ready to learn about what you can do to promote baby learning? We’ve compiled a few tips on what parents can do each day to set their little ones up for success in various areas of learning.
Language & Literacy
Pay attention to how your baby communicates with you via facial expressions, sounds, and gestures. These can all be used to help your child learn more about spoken/written words.
You don’t have to actually “teach” your child, either. Classes designed for babies and toddlers don’t necessarily help them with brain development or better their chances in school. Plus, they could adversely affect the child’s sense of self-confidence if they don’t “get” the skills they’re being taught.
Language and literacy are something you can teach doing everyday activities. You can laugh with your baby, talk to them, read books to them, and show them what’s on TV or going on around them. You can play together with toys or just by going outside and enjoying the fresh air. You can sing songs.
Babies develop literacy skills early on when you offer them the chance to play around with and explore items like crayons and paper, baby books (here is one example), or newspapers/catalogs. So, while you wait with your baby at their doctor’s appointment, put down the phone and read them the health brochures or children’s magazines in the office.
Go to the library and check out some children’s books. Or, just read them a newspaper article.
You both can learn something from these activities!
Other ways you can help a baby from 0-12 months develop literacy:
- Copy the sounds your baby makes and encourage them to copy you.
- Tell your baby what you are doing in various tones. “You must be so hungry! Let’s get some oatmeal going.” “Hey, big guy! Want to play?” Displaying various tones of voice helps them understand how we as adults communicate.
- Play peek-a-boo.
- Assign words to sounds. Suppose you are walking and your baby makes a noise. “You must be trying to tell me about the garbage truck. Let’s wave at the garbage truck!”
- Let your baby “read” to you. They are not going to know what they’re doing, but teaching them the fun of reading early on is critical for a love of reading in the future.
- Read with expression. Give the characters different voices and tones. Your baby will love it, and they will learn that reading can be a way to get a good laugh in and enjoy themselves.
Promoting Self Confidence
When a baby feels safe and free to move about, knowing they will always have a loved one nearby to keep them comfortable, they become more confident in their ability to explore. The act of your baby crawling away from you for brief periods is a small first step to independence. Your child feels OK without you for a minute or so because they know you will be there for them if they need you.
Here are ways you can promote a sense of self-confidence in your little ones as they begin to crawl.
- Be a safe haven for your child. As your child crawls, walk behind them or keep them in eyesight, making sure they are safe, but encouraging them to go forth and explore.
- If your child demonstrates stress or a need for help, be there for them. Comfort them, as this builds trust. Then, when they feel comforted, allow them to go back to exploring. A child who feels protected will feel confident about their ability to venture forth.
- You can help your child feel good about themselves and their abilities by providing plenty of attention and love. Your baby will come to feel special and confident in themselves. Offer praise when they do something correctly, such as putting the correct shape into the wooden puzzle toy or press the right button to make a toy light up.
- When playing peek-a-boo or other similar games, praise their accomplishment. “Oh, you found me! I was under this blanket the whole time!”
- You can promote self-confidence by helping your child complete various tasks. For example, if they are learning how to stand, help them do so and then take your hands away. Clap for them and praise them for standing up, even if they fall over.
- Teach them that setbacks are normal. Babies learning to walk often trip, and frustrate themselves. Some parents choose to say “Yay!” and clap a bit when a small, unharmful fall happens to show that small setbacks are nothing to worry about (and that it’s OK to laugh at yourself). Other parents might say “Up, up, up!” so the child knows that if we fall, we have to get up and keep going.
- Be the example. Babies are learning by imitating and watching the people around them. When your baby is with you while you work, meet someone new, or interact with a person at the grocery store, mechanic, doctor’s office, or another public place, they are learning. Keeping a calm, cool and confident demeanor will teach your baby confidence and reassure them they are safe.
- Encourage independence by demonstrating confidence during saying “good-bye.” When you hand your baby off to the day-care employees, grandmother, auntie or uncle, or friend, kiss them and give them a big hug. Don’t demonstrate sadness or fear (although we all know what it’s like to feel nervous when leaving your child at times). This teaches your baby how to be confident when you’re not around all the time- a great skill to have while at school, when staying over at a friend’s house, and time spent alone.
Development Of Thinking Skills
Your baby learns using his five senses. He or she hears music and talking, put things in their mouths, and they touch everything. They taste new foods from baby food jars as they progress in age. They see parents, relatives, and new faces, studying them intently.
They are also learning advanced concepts such as cause and effect. For example, pressing a button on a toy may result in a song playing or a light flashing.
There are several easy ways you can promote thinking skills in your baby during the first year. First, recognize that your baby is thinking. Here are some actions to watch out for:
- Reaching out for objects that are interesting, such as keys or glasses
- Rolling over to, or reaching out for, people that she wants to see
- Examining faces
- Touching toes or fingers
- Watching toys, people or animals move
- Pulling at earrings or hair
- Looking toward the sources of sounds such as radios, TVs, or speakers
- Using sounds to get your attention
Now, here’s what you as a parent can do to encourage these behaviors:
- Take happiness in their accomplishments. When your baby holds their bottle themselves, or reaches a toy they wanted, praise them.
- Offer different safe objects to play with and touch. Different textures are one such example. You could offer a metal spoon, a sticky piece of tape, and a rubber ball to show what different surfaces feel like.
- Tell them the names of things they point at. “See the truck? Yes, that’s a garbage truck!’
It’s also important to recognize when your baby’s memory develops. For example, she will smile when familiar people come around such as family members or friends. She may smile or turn her head when she hears her name being called. Your child may also smile when a familiar toy is handed to them.
Help your baby grow their brain by having them solve simple problems. For example, the baby snack puffs are in the container, but the lid is on. Model showing how the lid comes off, and then loosely place it back on. Encourage your baby to take the lid off as a means of reaching their snack puffs.
You can also give them toys that promote such behavior. For example, a toy lights up and plays music when a certain button is pressed. Which button is it? Only through trial-and-error- and eventual learning- will she find out.
My Personal Story
I’d like to spend a few moments telling you about my daughter and why I believe so strongly in baby learning.
My partner and I are big readers and we believe in learning wherever you are. My partner writes software used to educate workers about ergonomics, and I am a writer/proofreader.
We enjoy reading all sorts of literature and when we found out we were expecting, we made it clear that reading would still be part of our lifestyles, but with more picture books and fewer novels/autobiographies.
When Lily was young, we read to her at least once per day. Sometimes, that meant reading her the side of the milk carton as we hurried to get her to grandma’s so we could get to the office on time, or the road signs as we traveled to see family.
Other times that meant when we had time for a children’s book, we indulged- she loved The Poky Little Puppy.
We also tried to include Lily in appropriate activities. We took her to outdoor concerts in the park. We took her on day trips to museums and local landmarks. We would sometimes “conversate” with Lily, pretending her babbles and coos were actual phrases.
“Oh yes, we did hear about that traffic jam on the highway,” we’d say. “Yes, gasoline prices are much too high.” You get the idea.
When Lily could walk, she began imitating me, following Zumba videos when I worked out. We also bought her a toy ride-on horse, which she pretended was a “spin bike”.
Today, Lily is 10 years old and does very well in her studies. She enjoys mathematics and her teachers indicated if she keeps her grades up, she will be in the Gifted and Talented class in junior high.
Lily also takes dance- she currently does jazz and tap, and her coaches commend her quick ability to learn the moves.
When she’s not cutting a rug, Lily is always looking up something on her tablet or reading a young-reader book. She enjoys the series The Last Kids On Earth and would like to start Harry Potter once she is a bit older.
I feel that my daughter is doing well, and although she is not a child prodigy, I feel that me and my partner’s efforts have set her up for a lifetime of learning, and enjoyment whilst doing so.
I’d also like to throw in that we are not rich. All it takes is some simple playtime, reading books you have, and exploring the world around you to enrich your precious little one.
We hope this article has been helpful to you. As you can see, Baby Learning is a practice that doesn’t require you to pull out a credit card or buy fancy toys and books.
By treating your baby to a bit of playtime each day, talking to them in various tones, and reading to them, you can set your child up for success in school and beyond.
Even though it seems like your baby doesn’t gain anything from these actions, rest assured they do! They’re learning how to communicate, how to respond to various tones of voice, and how to read, play and recognize patterns. They’re learning motor skills, too.
Enjoy this precious first year- it matters greatly and it flies by so fast.
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