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Developing Thinking Skills From Birth to 12 Months

The most important part of your child’s early learning experiences is you. These strategies will help your baby begin to make sense of the world through interactions and experiences with loved and trusted adults.

Babies learn by using their senses. They explore by touching and mouthing objects, listening to voices and music, and seeing the colorful, fascinating wonder all around them. Through this exploration, babies learn very important concepts such as cause and effect when they shake a rattle and hear a sound, or when they yank on their mother’s nose and she jumps back and winces and says, “Ouch!” They learn about size and shape by stacking blocks, mouthing them, and trying to fit them into the correctly-shaped holes. They learn to solve problems when they discover how to turn the crank to get the jack-in-the-box to pop up. They learn how to use their bodies to achieve a goal when they crawl or roll to a favorite toy that you’ve put out of reach.

What Can You Do to Support Your Baby’s Thinking Skills?

Offer interesting objects to explore—fabrics of various textures, a ball of sticky masking tape, a wooden spoon and a metal one, smooth balls and bumpy balls.

Respond to your child’s communications. Use words to describe what she is experiencing: That’s a ball. You are looking at the red ball. Do you want the ball?

Provide the help your child needs to solve problems, such as showing your baby how to get the lid off the container so he can reach the blocks inside. Then put the lid on and let him try, before you do it.

Play disappearing and reappearing games, like peek-a-boo. Make a simple game of hiding objects to find. This teaches object permanence—that things exist even when they can’t be seen.

Encourage your child to explore objects and toys in different ways. Touching, banging, shaking, and rolling help children learn about how things work. Talk with your child about what he is doing: “You got the truck to move by pulling the string!”

Take “touching” walks. On your walks together, hold your baby’s hands up to a bumpy tree trunk. Crinkle a leaf and let her listen. Talk about what you are seeing and doing.

Make the most of daily routines. Let your baby help drop clothing into the washing machine. Sing a song about body parts during bath-time. These routine activities are not-so-routine for your growing baby, as he learns how things work.

Give your child some “real life toys”. Discover how a wooden spoon and a whisk make different sounds when tapped on a pot lid. Pull a scarf through a paper towel tube to make the scarf appear and disappear. Let your child feel the difference between the brush used on her hair, and the spiny teeth of the comb.


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