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Writing on parenting.com, Anita Sethi, PhD., describes some new research on infant development that program directors and teachers can share with families and college instructors can share with students. She writes:
“Experts have known for a while that babies are smarter than they look, but new research is giving us more insight into how their little minds work. Here's some of the exciting news:
Old thinking: It's important to talk to your baby in the first few months.
New thinking: It's not just what you say now, but how you say it...what is essential in the first months, according to new research, is the manner in which you relate to your child. ‘At this early stage,’ says researcher Maria Legerstee, Ph.D., professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, ‘it’s about communicating a genuine emotional response.’
What it means for you: Tune in to your baby's emotions. If he smiles, smile back. If he cries, show sympathy. Having a predictable, responsive parent helps him learn what to expect and makes him feel more secure.
Old thinking: Children don't start to have complex thoughts until the preschool years.
New thinking: High-level comprehension may begin as early as 3 months.
Remember the Sesame Street song ‘One of These Things (Is Not Like the Other)’? The tune teaches categorization, which involves observing specific features and then noting them in other objects. (Both the blocks and the fire engine are red, for example.) Your 3-month-old could play a version of that game. Researchers at Birkbeck University of London found that 3-month-olds were able to recognize the difference between dogs and cats. When shown a picture of a dog after viewing several cats, the babies in the study looked longer at the dog, a signal that they recognized something different about the object.
What's more, at 6 months a baby can detect differences in a counting sequence. After hearing a tone matched with an object just a few times (the baby sees two objects, hears two tones), a 6-month-old can tell when the number of tones doesn't match the number of objects.
What it means for you: No need to buy those flash cards yet (if ever) -- your baby's brain is fertile ground as is. Even if he can't sort blocks by himself, he might enjoy watching you put all the blue blocks in one pile and the red in another. You can also count them, build with them, or arrange them from smallest to largest.”
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