Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Enhance your baby's learning

You can enhance your baby's early learning by doing a few things that (mostly) come naturally:

Let go of inhibitions
Silliness and spontaneity enrich the dance of social connection. "In those early interactions with your baby, you may make sounds and feel sensations that are completely new to you, and that intimacy with your baby is healthy," says Ramey.

As often as possible, keep your baby close
Even when you're not interacting, carrying or wearing her (rather than parking her in a baby seat) allows her to observe you at close range, stimulates her sense of physical contact, and helps satisfy her motion-hungry vestibular system.

Learn the difference between awake and alert
Though overall sleep time per day doesn't fluctuate much in the first three months, what does change is how much of the time your baby is alert — not just awake but ready to learn. This will gradually increase. So learn his signals for "Show me something new!" and "I want to quit."

Avoid over stimulation
Just like grown-ups, babies need some downtime, time to process and consolidate all the extraordinary sensations they're absorbing.

As for concern that you should acquire the flash cards, baby software, and other props of some learning regimen in order to do right by your child: "My intuition is that babies have so much to learn about people and ordinary objects that all these new activities may take time away from the normal social interaction we know they need," says Meltzoff.

As impressive as a baby's brain may seem, in many ways we are born knowing a lot less than other animals. "Mountain goats can get up an hour after birth and climb a mountain," says Meltzoff. "Spiders are born knowing how to weave a web."

Ironically, human babies' far greater dependency on their parents is an evolutionary coup of sorts. That openness to learning has enabled our species to live in a greater variety of social groups, eat a wider range of foods, practice more diverse customs, even occupy more ecological niches, than any other species on earth. We are born to learn, and what we are born to learn is how to be (in so many delightfully different ways) human.

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