Babies are born completely unskilled and dependent. They can’t speak or understand language. They are nearsighted, able to see only see shapes, light, and motion. They can’t even support their own heads. It’s a long row to hoe for them to acquire the huge volume of physical and mental skills and knowledge that we adults use automatically every day. Compared to a fawn, for example, that can stand up within minutes of birth, human newborns are incredibly helpless.
As a society, despite how much we cherish and adore our kids, we don’t have very high expectations when it comes to what they can learn from birth to about age five. We speak very slowly and repetitively or coo at them in nonsensical baby talk—and we do this well past infancy. We reinforce their babyish identities when we say, “We go bye-bye,” or “You want ba-ba?” We buy all kinds of doodads, toys, and electronic gadgets that we think they need to supplement their brain power. We don’t realize it, but we don’t really respect their ability to learn, and thus, we set the bar for learning pretty low.
In terms of knowledge, infants start out in life as nearly empty vessels. They’re poorly equipped with the physical and mental knowledge they’ll need to survive and thrive independently. Looked at in a positive light, we might see these empty vessels as ready and waiting to be filled with skills and abilities. Instead, we seem to have an unconscious cultural bias that infants and young kids are slow or unprepared for education—and must be forcibly taught the process starting in elementary school. We respond to these perceived needs with a snail’s pace of instruction that matches what we think are the appropriate developmental stages.
There’s no doubt that babies are essentially learning machines. Everything they do from the moment of birth onward is geared toward consuming massive amounts of information and processing it quickly. Their minds must learn to interpret their environment, and their bodies must learn to adapt to the rapid changes of physical development. When you’re lying in a crib watching a mobile at three months, the world is a totally different place than when you’re riding a tricycle at three years.
At Little Newtons, we are totally aware of the potentials of your infant. And those potentials are amazing.