Now here’s an amazing fact: did you know that babies as young as a few weeks can do maths? Not exactly complicated algebra and logarithms, but your baby will notice if you put two toys in front of her, and then take one away (neuroscientists measure this by the amount of time a baby looks at something before losing interest). Of course, we can’t actually teach our babies to read, write and do arithmetic – that joy comes later – but educationalists acknowledge that the period from birth to three years is crucial in terms of laying solid foundations for future learning.
It’s never too early to start. And forget the flashcards and hot-housing, it’s the simplest pleasures that will delight and inspire your baby. For instance, gazing at your face helps to stimulate your baby’s visual neural networks, and talking or singing to her encourages communication and verbal skills. “If you consider the infinite number of words, as well as the potential mappings between words and meanings, learning a language ought to be impossible,” says George Hollich, Director of the Infant Language Lab at Purdue University, Indiana. “Our studies are determining how babies discover words in the fluent stream of speech, how they learn the meaning of words, and how they come to understand grammar. They also illustrate the importance of talking to babies early and often.”
Your baby will also benefit from a wide variety of experience. “The more sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile experiences we provide for our babies, the more neurons will connect to make sense
of the world,” says Dr Rebecca Shore, an educator at the University of North Carolina. All of these can be stimulated through interactive play, teaching all manner of exciting concepts like cause and effect, shapes, textures and numbers. And the big trick? Don’t concentrate on the ‘learning’ aspect of it all: instead, focus on the association of nice things, and your baby will naturally acquire knowledge, too.
VISIT: Our wonderful world of play to discover why toddlers love shapes, how to improve those fine motor skills through play and how to encourage creativity, as well as the tools of the trade and lots more...
www.nhs.uk - Timeline for baby development
www.cbcd.bbk.ac.uk/babylab - Birbeck College baby lab for research into brain and cognitive development
This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article