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Babies Know A Lot More Than You Think They Do

by Early Math Counts

Can you imagine how smart we would be if we learned at the rate an infant does? Babies are born with all sorts of innate abilities to make sense of the world around them.  Many of those are designed as self-preservation and many others are simply driven by a need to know more, understand more.  An infant will close her eyes to the blazing sun and turn her head into her mother’s shoulder when a stranger gets too close.  She knows that both of these things are problematic; the sun is too bright and hurts her eyes, the stranger is unknown and therefore worrisome.  She divides her world into “OK” and “not OK”  and then builds understandings on top of that.

The earliest sets of predictable patterns are elicited by the infant herself. When she cries, her adults respond.  When she is pushed in the stroller, people stop and coo at her.  In short order she discovers that her behaviors “cause” the reactions around her and learns to repeat her behavior so she can continue to prompt the desired responses.  This “cause and effect” reaction is her first experience of “predictable sequencing” and lays the foundation for math concepts rooted in relationships.

You can well imagine how a disturbance in these predictable patterns and sequences can be problematic for the infant.  That is why both consistency of care and continuity of care are necessary and ideal for her.  Her learning is dependent on repeated experiences that result in the development of neural pathways that are laid down and then deepened over time.

The infant finds comfort in routine.  She thrives when all of her needs are met in a predictable way.  She enjoys exploring new terrain while returning to the familiar.  Practice and repetition are reassuring and should be encouraged.  Just when you think you can’t play “Peek-a-Boo” for one more minute, you remember that the infant relishes this repetition and is busy building neural pathways because of it.

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