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Things Babies Know & Learn

Things Babies Know & Learn

Babies enter the world with a grasp of some pretty complex topics, including ethics, physics and language. How they build on that and what they continue to learn in the first two years is equally amazing.

What babies know?

Think of your little one as a start kit, complete with smarts and skills that you can explore together with him/her. These are the things your baby knows from the get-go.

Who’s naughty and who’s nice

In a series of experiments done at Yale, babies between six and ten months old watched three different puppet shows. And in each scenario, a puppet was helped by another character and treated badly by a third.

When the babies were given the chance to choose between the nice puppet and the mean one, 80% of them reached for the helpful puppet.

So how can you encourage your baby’s moral code to continue flourishing? Simply let your little one observe you treating others kindly and fairly!

How to learn at just the right pace

Babies are like little sponges, soaking up information as fast as you provide it. They are also smart enough to know how much to soak up at each sitting – too little and they’ll get bored, too much and they’ll get overloaded.

Even at seven or eight months, babies will look away from something that’s too easy or difficult for them to understand.

So when you’re teaching your baby something, remember to give plenty of age-appropriate playthings and pay attention to his/her cues. If your little one cries or looks away when you’re waving the rattle or reading a story, try snuggling and singing instead.

Physics (really!)

Your little one may not know what your physics teacher taught you in secondary school, but he/she picks up knowledge about the physical world really quickly.

As early as two months, he/she can understand gravity – when you drop the blanket, it falls. Your cutie also realises that his/her teddy bear still exists, even though it may be hiding under the blanket.

By five months, your baby will be able to understand the difference between water and something solid, like the rubber ducky.

Honing his/her natural knowledge of the physical world is easy. Play plenty of rounds of peek-a-boo with your kids and let them touch and play with toys of different textures.

Do remember to keep pointing out the different properties of the objects around them, like how things are big or small, wet or dry, round or square.


It may come as a surprise, but babies can actually count before they can talk! They also know which of two quantities is larger and can even do simple subtraction, all before they turn one.

In one experiment, 24 six-month-olds watched a videotape showing two puppets.

Before the show ended, the researchers took away a puppet and then dropped a screen that blocked the babies’ line of vision. When the screen was removed, sometimes there was one puppet, sometimes two.

When the numbers didn’t add up, the babies stared longer, a clue that they were surprised. Other studies have shown that ten-month-olds can tell which cup holds more crackers or more liquid.

Sure, they don’t have the words to show off their mathematical know-how, but try some nursery rhymes with lots of numbers (e.g. Three Blind Mice). You may be in for a surprise finding out how good your tiny one’s computational skills are.

The joy of giving

A recent study conducted found that toddlers really like to share, and they’re happiest when they can give up something they have for the sole purpose of sharing it with someone else.

Hard to believe? Here’s how the researchers discovered that toddlers are do-gooders in the making.

20 22-month-olds were introduced to a puppet, and each toddler was given eight crackers. First, the toddlers watched a grown-up feed the puppet a cracker.

Then, each toddler was encouraged to feed the puppet a cracker that had been ‘found’ and another cracker from his/her own bowl.

The results showed that the toddlers were happiest when they gave the puppet a cracker from their bowls.

To encourage the joy of giving in your sweetie, give him/her plenty of opportunities to share and be sure to thank him/her each and every time.

What babies learn?

How to spot differences

By the time your baby is three months old, he/she will be able to tell the difference between a smile and a frown. Or, at least when you or your partner is the one smiling or frowning.

Two months later, your baby will recognise these emotions in a stranger, no matter how different the stranger looks from you. And by as early as nine months, babies can distinguish facial expressions of people who look like their parents and other caregivers they know best.

To encourage him to distinguish people who may not look or sound like him, introduce him to a wide range of folks, and make sure you embrace diversity too!

When a song’s out of tune

Research shows that babies with ‘musical training’ smile more, get upset less easily and are easier to soothe. Those babies also tend to learn when a song is in tune faster than babies who just passively listen to background music while they do other things.

But there’s no need for cello lessons in the crib – just make lullabies, nursery rhymes and interactive songs a part of every day. If you wish, you can also throw some wooden-spoon-on-a-pot concerts into the mix.

A whole lot of language from you

Brain studies have shown that the period of six and 12 months is a crucial time for language development and that the best way to enhance your child’s language learning is through social interaction.

So play with your baby early and often, and chat with your little precious as much as possible while playing. Narrate the action, point out birds and clouds as you walk around your balcony, and name each body part or clothing as you dress your darling.

Toys and electronic gadgets are fun too, but language and other learning really take off when playtime is spent with you or another playful grown-up.

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