“Newborn babies…are very intent human beings struggling against very difficult circumstances to overcome blindness, deafness, and immobility. They are deadly serious and they should be. It is not easy or safe to be a newborn baby.” -Glenn Doman
Sam is snuggly, cute, tiny, and strong, but he is also INTENT. When he is awake, he is trying hard to see and hear and roll over and poop and hold up his head and be fed at the right times. He is extremely serious about all these things…so much so that it cracks us up sometimes. It’s gotta be hard to be a baby. We joke that Sam rolls over every morning, opens his eyes halfway, and says to himself, “GAH. I’m still a baby! Dangit.”
Babies learn by experience, right? The more they are shown, the more they can see. The more they are talked to, the more they can hear and understand. The more opportunities they have to move, the more they can move.
Most babies get the hang of things naturally, just by being alive in the world. They learn to see light and dark right away, and every time the lights in the room go on and off, or the sun sets or rises, their little light reflexes get stimulated. Pretty soon, their pupils learn to adjust instantly to the change. Then, they can move on to the next step: seeing outlines. They work on that for a while. Then they can start to make out details. Later, they develop depth perception. And so on. It’s a progression that happens by opportunity, as their brains grow with use. Same with walking, hearing, talking, communicating, and growing up in general.
Before I go off and get all impersonal and geeky…the point is, what if I can provide extra opportunities for Sam to work on these things? Find out what he’s working on and help him? Help him grow his brain by creating an environment in which he can use it more? Get into his world a little and help him to understand ours?
I’m not a kid or baby expert. (Heck, I was the one on the delivery table telling the nurse, “You’re going to have to tell me what to do, because I don’t have a clue how to have a baby. I didn’t make it past the first week of my childbirth class!”) But I am reaaallly interested in baby development and learning, partly because my parents raised my brother and me on a fascinating program in which they intentionally worked with us to develop the skills that I’m talking about. We’re not geniuses and we didn’t go to Harvard or anything, but I think that our parents’ work helped to cultivate in us a genuine curiosity in the world and a knowledge that learning meant something more than just pure “school.”
But, school is helpful too, so when I was pregnant, I went to school in Philly for an intense week to study how early brain development works and how we can get in on that action with our babies.
So I’ve been trying out some things on Sam, who is currently three months old. I’m planning to share them in subsequent blog posts.
First, though, a few qualifiers:
1) I am not trying to create a superbaby Mozart who will write symphonies when he’s two, go to Yale when he’s twelve, and make his millions by sixteen. I just want him to love to learn, and learn easily. I want to cultivate curiosity in his life. And I want to be purposeful in helping his brain to grow…just as I am about helping his body to grow by feeding him (although if you hear him yell when he’s hungry, you might think I starve the poor thing. I don’t. Apparently it’s a preemie thing to be immensely greedy about food.)
2) Just because I am trying out certain ideas with our kid doesn’t mean that if you’re doing things differently with yours, I’m judging you by writing this. I just want to share a little bit of my life with you! I also want a platform to talk about our progress, what’s working, and what’s not. Also, I think that a lot of people (Jordan’s parents, for instance) intuit these ideas and stimulate their babies’ brains in similar ways without using specific techniques or activities from a child development textbook.
3) I take Sam very seriously. I have great respect for him as a human being made in the image of God and as a person with way more capacity for learning than I have now (baby brains grow FAST, dude). However, he is still a silly little squirt that we quite enjoy laughing at and blowing raspberries on, and part of me wants him to stay a squishy baby forever!
4) My baby didn’t start out ahead of the game (if anything, he is considered six weeks behind for a newborn). My point is that I don’t think my baby is smarter than anyone else’s. I believe that babies in general are naturally born to be brilliant, curious learners; we don’t enter a lottery and cross our fingers that we get an alert, interested kid. They’re born with the spark already there, but the first one to three years is really important in keeping the spark alive. The question is, how? That’s part of what I want to tackle on this blog.
5) I’m not stressing myself or my family out over this stuff. If the activities aren’t fun and happy and lighthearted…forget it. And it’s okay if we have days where we sit on the couch and watch movies all day and I’m lucky if I shower and don’t starve. But the things we’ve been doing ARE fun and easy, and I think Sam is a happier and healthier baby for it, and I have something to think about beyond just surviving until 5 pm when Jordan gets home and I have the option to make my escape to Target. Which is vital to my sanity, too.
The quote above and a lot of these ideas are from a book called “How Smart Is Your Baby?” Silly title, good book. You can get it on Amazon if you’re interested.
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