When is my baby ready to learn and ‘talk’ with me?

Your newborn is ready to learn and ‘chat’ with you. Enjoy exploring the world with him.

Babies are not blank slates when born, like once believed. Babies sleep a lot but don’t be fooled: They are amazing learners and are watching you, listening to you and drawing conclusions from what you say and do. They are little scientists who constantly test their ideas about the world around them. They want to do things and make things move. The more experiences parents and caregivers provide for them, the more opportunities they have to learn.

What does my baby already know?

Babies bring many talents to the table when it comes to learning.

They can integrate and memorize information; detect patterns in the speech they hear and the actions they see and differentiate events that occur often and those that are rare; they have a basic knowledge that things and people behave differently; they draw conclusions from things they observe such that when they kick the mobile it moves, and so they kick some more and hope it will move again.

Babies have lots to learn and are very powerful, efficient learners. Even though your baby does not understand exactly what you say or talk back in real words in the first months, he’s carefully listening and watching you, and learning from you. Talk. Tune in. Respond.

Watch ‘Are Babies born to Learn?’, and find out what parents and caregivers can do to support early learning.

What to keep in mind when engaging with babies

Don’t be fooled: Babies know a lot more than you can see.

It’s safe to assume that your baby knows a lot more than she lets on. Babies know a lot about people, their faces and voices, and are very quick at learning about the sounds of their language. They know about basic characteristics of things, and even have a grasp on numerosity already: They are surprised when one Mickey Mouse doll disappears behind a screen, and then when the screen goes down, they all of a sudden see two Mickey Mouse dolls. Babies are a lot smarter than you imagine.

Watch ‘Born to Communicate: What newborns and very young babies can do.’ You may be in for a surprise!

Language learning is well on the way long before babies say real words.

Not talking or understanding does not mean that the baby is not learning a lot from when you talk with her. She is, and she is doing most of this work underground which means that you likely underestimate how much she already knows about her language. Did you know that when born the baby knows something about the speech sounds of the language you spoke with her? Or that you have a statistical wizard who learns in just a few months where words start and end and what sounds combine to words. We know that those very early experiences babies have with language shape their later learning: Babies who are better in discriminating the sounds of their language in the first year, build vocabularies faster in the 2nd year and tend to do better in reading later on.

Learn more about what eminent child language researcher Dr. Patricia Kuhl means when calling babies ‘linguistic genuises’. Watch what babies first can do that you no longer can, and what they learn in the first year about their language. 

Every baby is different and learns the best he or she can.

Learning is affected by so many different things – the genes, the kinds of experiences a baby gets, the baby’s temperament, and more. You can support your baby best by tuning in, and watching what she’s interested in, and taking it from there.
Damien- maybe highlight this through side bar