Infants are amazing! We sometimes think of them as tiny, helpless humans, yet their capacity for learning is unmatched. Babies grow and develop more in their first year of life than any other year, which is incredible when you think about how much we think we learn every day as adults. We at Sparkles! love watching how the infants in our care grow so quickly, so we thought it would be interesting to take a look at what babies are learning during the first twelve months of life.
First, it’s important to understand that all five senses are important as infants develop. Babies begin to experience their worlds not only through tasting, touching and seeing, but through smelling and listening. The researchers at the University of North Carolina say, “Infants can recognize their mothers by smell and the sound of her voice within a few days after birth.” And since early on infants respond to sound and touch, it’s crucial we hold them, rock them and treat them gently and lovingly. The sounds of our voices, soft music and other soothing sounds help babies get accustomed to their environment and start to learn from it.
From the very beginning, infants are able to suck. This ability is important not only for nutrition, but for later development. Babies put everything in their mouths – it’s one of their ways of experiencing the world, developing awareness of their surroundings and the objects in it. This is why it’s so important to have clean, age appropriate objects such as teething rings available.
If you have ever had an infant hold onto your finger, you know that infants can grasp. As babies develop, they learn to control what and how much they hold onto, eventually being able to grasp toys, blankets and other objects. As their abilities progress, they begin to bang objects, integrating movement with sound as they learn they can have some control over things around them.
We sometimes think of infants as fairly immobile. The reality is, they move a lot. Early on, infants learn to twist. The older they get, the more they are able to control their movements, graduating to rocking, pivoting, scooting and eventually crawling. The more infants learn to move, the more they learn to control their movements, developing muscles and motor skills along the way.
Around three months, infants begin to follow movement with their eyes. Things like mobiles become highly interesting. Mommy or Daddy walking around the room allows baby to understand better when someone is present or not. Crib mirrors help babies develop their sense of sight, too. Carrying infants around and stimulating the sense of sight is important to help babies learn to focus in on objects.
With regards to learning language, babies start out by cooing and, of course, crying. Babies eventually start babbling, learning to mimic the sounds others make. Before beginning to speak, infants practice vowel sounds. Older infants begin to distinguish sounds as words and try out consonant sounds. Kimberly Kopko of Cornell University writes about language development, “Despite the number of different languages in the world, infants learn language in a universal, relatively predictable pattern. Milestones in infant language development include communicating at birth by crying, cooing at 1-2 months, babbling at 6 months, use of gestures and word comprehension at 8-12 months, speaking first words at 13 months, a rapid growth in vocabulary by 18 months, and significant increased word understanding and speaking of two-word utterances such as ‘my toy’ between 18-24 months.”
As you can see, an infant’s life is not boring! There’s so much to do and learn, it’s a wonder infants can keep up with it all. So the next time you think you’ve had a busy day, think about your baby’s. Then sit down and settle in for some relaxing snuggle time.