Tips, advice and resources for parents and teachers
Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff, and Patricia Kuhl
This breezy work of popular science sets out to describe the minds of very young children as revealed by “twenty-five years of research in philosophy, psychology, computer science, linguistics and neuroscience.” The results will gratify new parents: your baby is a genius, just as you thought.
Although their brains are much lighter, babies are born with as many neurons as adults. A three-year-old’s brain is twice as active as his mother’s. Babies can distinguish the sounds of all languages with equal clarity; Japanese babies clearly hear the difference between English “rake” and “lake” that mystifies their parents.
Parents beware—babies are learning more, and faster, than they will at any time in their lives. On their first day, they show particular interest in the faces that go with voices they remember hearing in the womb, and can already copy facial expressions. Even before they are two, babies are capable of empathy. When one of the authors burst into tears after a long day at the office, her baby son fetched Band-Aids from the bathroom and stuck them all over her.
And, like scientists, babies test out their theories. These authors believe toddlers in their “terrible twos” watch the reactions of aggrieved adults as if they were laboratory rats. “Babies are already as smart as they can be. They are designed to learn … most of all by playing with the people that love them.”
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