Our babies are learning things every day. While we are pretty aware of some of their habits and cues, there are also some fascinating (and surprising) ways our infants learn.
Here are just a few:
1. Exploring: There are many theories and philosophies on child learning and the best ways to help them learn. While the concept of learning by exploring may become controversial as they get older, there is no doubt that for infants and toddlers, exploring is essential. Infants learn just by being allowed to explore. Whether with you holding them, letting them look around, and taking them to the items that spark their interest; or as they become mobile, letting them roll, crawl, and walk around different environments, they are always learning by exploration. They learn about their senses: touch, smell, sound; they learn about new objects, and new words; they learn to recognize familiar objects; and they may even learn a sense of safety and trust. Some structure is good over time, but don’t be afraid to let your baby just explore the world around them!
2. Observing Conversation: Kids learn language by hearing us talk, regardless of who we are talking to or what we are talking about. The more words they hear when they are babies through toddlers, the better their vocabulary and language skills will be. Don’t feel silly talking to a baby about unloading the dishwasher…just talk. It keeps them happy and entertained, engaged in what you are doing, and helps them learn!
3. Observing Behavior: Children learn about logic and processes by hearing us and watching us work through different situations. For example, if while we’re walking around looking for our keys, we say things like “Mommy can’t find her keys. Where could they be? Did I leave them there? Let’s look over here…,” our babies begin to learn the process of problem solving. Our self talk is a great way to inspire our children to think through problems.
4. Observing Perspective: By hearing our conversations with others, including mild disagreements and tougher topics, our kids begin to learn the concept of opinion and that others have thoughts and ideas, just like they do. This is one of the greatest (and often only) ways kids learn about “world view.” Basically, they are learning that there is more than one point of view, and that there are points of view other than theirs. Very important!
5. Play: Infants learn things like movement, communication, socialization, trust, and about their environment just by playing. Never underestimate the power of play!
6. Love Your Baby: Experts say that simply by loving and nurturing your child, you will improve their ability to learn, as well as possibly improve their brain function. “Experiences that have emotional content and human interaction are what are pleasurable and meaningful to a baby. They act like glue for their memory, helping them to retain what they are picking up and learning,” says Nina Sazer O’Donnell, director of National Strategies for Success By 6, a United Way of America learning initiative.
How easy is that? Talk, play, and love your kids, and you will automatically be helping your babies learn!