Your young child’s development year-to-year
Baby's First Year
Carousel is pleased to bring you the second article in our series celebrating your young child’s marvelous ages and exciting developmental stages!
Every few weeks we’re focusing on a specific age group to explore the exciting things that are happening in your child’s body and brain—be sure to catch all the articles in the series.
Though we specialize in 0-3 years, Carousel Teaching System®, our exclusive curriculum, is designed to grow with your child and address the particular needs of every stage. Our program is designed to advance language development, inspire curiosity, and cultivate joy in learning.
We have captivating programming and exquisite learning materials for school-age children as well as babies and toddlers—and tailored tutoring available for kids right up through the teen years.
Today, we’re talking about Incredible Infants!
Babies are born wired to learn. This is one of the key takeaways from the fascinating research presented in “The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind,” by Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff, and Patricia Kuhl.
During a child’s earliest years of life, the brain is uniquely pliable. In this period of “neuroplasticity” the neural circuitry is being formed. These are the information pathways in the brain, connections that lay the foundation for future learning. Synaptic connections are built in response to new experiences.
From the moment your baby is born, positive experiences, loving relationships, and a nurturing environment mold and shape the developing brain.
Our work at Carousel is deeply rooted in Dr. Kuhl’s research, which demonstrates that exposure to a foreign language during this sensitive window builds a more powerful brain by boosting production of those synaptic connections.
Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, (who famously said, “Play is the work of the young child”) made the first formal study of cognitive development in children—including reasoning, memory, language, social-emotional skills, and more. Piaget believed that children take an active role in their own development, interacting with the world to gain knowledge. He identified and defined 4 main stages of children’s cognitive development. The first of these stages, from birth to approximately 24 months is the Sensorimotor stage. For the first 2 years of life, infants learn through their bodies—their senses and movements help them connect with and understand the world around them.
The first 12 months, in particular, are crucial in language development. Research has shown that babies are born with the capacity to learn language, and the process begins immediately. Infants rely on sensorimotor connections when listening to speech, and the developing brain requires these experiences to form neural circuits.
Although a newborn’s eyesight is limited, she is able to focus effectively on objects and faces about 12 inches in front of her—the distance between the eyes of a babe in arms or at the breast, and the face of her loving parent. From her very first days, as you talk and coo to your beautiful new baby, she is watching the shape and movements of your mouth—and the twinkle in your eyes! Warm, playful, loving, face-to-face interaction is crucial to both brain growth and success in language learning.
Cuddle, smile, and hold hands as you talk and read with your baby. Talk to him all the time. Make lots of eye contact. Point out objects and activities in your daily life, home, and neighborhood, naming them for him as you go about your normal routine. Sing and dance. Play games. Don’t feel silly speaking your natural “parentese.” The high-pitched singsong language that we instinctively use with infants is very important to language development! It helps him become familiar with the sounds of his mother tongue.
Play with your baby every day. Make time for play while he is awake and cheerful, and be alert for when he gets fussy or tired and it’s time for a quiet rest.
“During this stage,” explains the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), “babies also are developing bonds of love and trust with their parents and others as part of social and emotional development.”
Respond when your baby is in distress—he cries to tell you that something is wrong. Comfort and reassure him, attend to his needs. This will not spoil him. You’re building a secure relationship for your future together.
Establishing and maintaining a basic routine will also help your infant feel secure and happy.
Piaget defined 6 fascinating sub-stages of the Sensorimotor period, as well, the first 4 of which take place within the first 12 months. (We’ll examine the other 2 in part 3 of this series).
In her first month of life, your infant gets to know her surroundings simply through automatic, inborn reflexes like rooting and sucking, grasping, and looking.
2. Primary Circular Reactions
From 1-4 months, your baby learns to repeat physical actions that produce pleasurable sensations with his own body, such as thumbsucking, kicking and wiggling, smiling, and cooing.
3. Secondary Circular Reactions
During the 4-8 month period, as she develops more awareness of the world around her, your baby discovers she can repeat an action using an external object to cause pleasure—she might shake a rattle, put a toy in her mouth, or drop something on the floor to make a bang.
She makes more vocal sounds now, using her baby babble to express feelings and even imitate speech patterns. Respond to her sounds and the emotions she expresses, taking turns in a “conversation.”
4. Coordination of Secondary Circular Reactions
Between 8 and 12 months, your baby starts to show signs of using acquired knowledge to achieve a goal. He has clear intention, and combines learned actions to produce a desired result. For example, he might reach out for a toy and push something else out of the way to get the one he wants.
Now that he’s more mobile, able to pull himself up with support of furniture, etc. he may reach or crawl to pick something up. Praise his exploration! Redirect his attention if he’s doing something unsafe.
One of the most important milestones your baby will achieve during these first exciting months is a grasp of object permanence. Piaget believed it begins around 8 months, but researchers now believe it can start a bit earlier. Object permanence is the understanding that just because an object disappears from sight doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Your baby now comprehends that when you hide a toy under a blanket, it is still there and you can bring it out again. If the kitty runs under the couch, your baby may look for him.
Of course, once they know that something or someone they love can return they want it/them to come back right away. They may use their developing voice to express their feelings, rather loudly.
Play Peekaboo! Babies love it. They’re delighted when you hide and pop out again and again. It’s a joyful bonding game, in which you give them your full attention, look them in the eye, and share laughter. But it’s also a very important learning tool. It helps them realize that when Daddy disappears for a moment, it’s ok—he always comes back! This can help ease the natural separation anxiety that occurs at this stage.
The first year is a time of incredible growth and joy! Relish it.
And keep in mind that not all babies do things at exactly the same time. These stages are an outline of how development progresses. If you’re ever feeling concerned, talk to your pediatrician.