When your baby was born, you were probably concerned about how he or she is going to look like, how big he or she is, if he or she had hair or not, and all those sort of things. But were you concerned about how smart your baby is going to be? Probably not.
And that’s normal, because you can’t really see the insides of his brain and you can’t really tell what’s going on inside. In the early months, the parts of your baby's brain that control his physical utilities are already established. So by default, your newborn knows how to breathe, feed, sleep and poo without your help. However, those parts of your baby’s brain that help him to comprehend the world around him, that’s a different story and requires a lot of facilitating from your end.
Your newborn's brain is not yet able to fully deal with perception, thought, memory, language and even physical harmony. Your baby requires what scientists call cognitive development — a process by which your baby progressively learns these mental skills.
When does it begin?
A few weeks after being born, your baby realises that he can make things happen. However, his capability to remember that he can make things happen will only progress over time.
Recall is the ability to think about something out of context. An example would be if your baby thought about his cot while sitting in his car seat. This ability doesn’t usually develop before six months, but after that age you should start to observe him using actions to communicate. One of the earliest is a gesture showing he wants to be picked up.
First 3 months
At this stage, your baby loves your high-pitched voice, and may always tend to turn towards it. If you stick out your tongue at him, he'll copy you, too. Your baby doesn't yet understand that he can make things happen. At six weeks, he doesn't realise that you exist when you are not with him. He doesn't even understand that you are the same person every time you are with him. There isn’t an established fear of strangers, so at this stage, your baby accepts cuddles from anyone.
3 to 6 months
This is when your baby starts to make things happen. At this point he already knows where he stops and everything else begins, realising that even if two toys are touching, that doesn't make them one. Furthermore, your baby can now categorise. Show him five pictures of cats, and when the sixth picture is that of a dog, behold the look of surprise on his face! By five months, however, this may upset him, as by then he knows there should only be one mum.
7 to 9 months
This is an exciting stage because by this time, your baby now knows his name. He also starts to feel a little bit uneasy with strangers and unfamiliar parts of the house. Your baby is able to make plans; for example, he can decide to crawl over to his teddy or to have another look at what's under the table.
You may find your baby replicating something you did previously. If he learns a new trick such as dropping a rattle from his cot, he'll be keen to try it out elsewhere. Your baby doesn't grasp the concept of hide-and-seek yet, so if you hide his toy, he probably won't be looking for it.
9 to 12 months
Babies this old usually clings to parents and cry when they’re not with them. Your baby can become upset because he has worked out that you exist even when he can't see you. But if he sees himself in the mirror, he won't realise that the reflection is of him.
Your baby will start to make meaningful noises, which will become his first words. His behaviour will seem more planned, and he will be better at anticipating what will happen.
12 to 18 months
With a mixture of words and actions, your baby can now tell you what he wants. He can imitate actions as well, especially yours. He may even copy something he saw you doing a few days back. Your baby is into everything, opening boxes, emptying bins. When faced with a problem, he tries one solution, then another until he succeeds or gets tired trying. If something is lost or hidden, he can now search for it methodically.
18 to 24 months
Your toddler is starting to put words together now that he is nearly two. He can sometimes work things out in his head, solving a problem not by trial and error but rather by thinking about how to go about it. Your toddler searches for things where he left them. Your child can also be uncooperative, difficult and unreasonable about what he can do. His frustration can turn into tantrums. He clings to you in strange situations.
At 18 months he may not mind other children playing with his toys, but by two he snatches them back. He likes to be with other children, but doesn't really play with them unless they are older.
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