The Scientist In The Crib is a well written book on the intellectual development of children from birth to about three years old. The three authors are experts in this field and have children on their own. This combination shows in the easy connection they make between research and real life. As the book is intended for the layman, it makes for a pleasant read.
It is also soundly researched and provides a solid understanding for teachers and other professionals. For those who wish to learn more, there are footnotes, a bibliography, an index and an index of researchers cited.
The authors postulate that children are born armed and ready to be powerful learners. They have not only powerful learning abilities but innate knowledge.
One of my favorite party tricks with newborns has been to stick my tongue out at one. To everyone’s astonishment, the baby will do the same back. Sometimes she pokes it in and out, sometimes she sticks it out in a different shape. It turns out that this knowledge was confirmed by one of the authors about 20 years ago. He tested newborns as soon after birth as possible; the youngest was 42 minutes old. They all responded by copying him when he stuck out his tongue.
Why the tongue? I suspect as babies are born knowing how to nurse, they have the most conscious control over their tongues. As a nursing mother can tell you, babies use their tongues to help them get milk from the breast. What is more interesting is that the babies recognise at sight someone else’s tongue and identify it with their own. It is excellent evidence that babies are born with innate knowledge.
This also demonstrates the third thing which contributes to the rapid progress that babies make: adults are innately motivated and able to teach their babies. As they stick out their tongues at babies and watch the babies’ reaction, they are teaching the infants. The adults and babies are also having fun.
This kind of interaction continues throughout childhood as children learn about the world and how to use language through games, exploration, play and mimicking the older people in their world. The book makes it clear that children do not need enrichment or any extra stimulus to flourish; all they need is the opportunity to interact with loving adults who have the time and will to play with them.
Isn’t that reassuring?
- Babies remember melodies heard in womb, study suggests (theguardian.com)
- Babies Can Hear and Remember First Lullabies While Still in the Womb (scienceworldreport.com)
- A first step in learning by imitation, baby brains respond to another’s actions (psypost.org)
- Scientists discover why newborns get sick so often (eurekalert.org)