What it’s like to think like your baby

Dear Tunester,  today let’s dive into the minds of our babies and see how it is to think like them.

Imagine you just entered a wild costume party, in a circus, with musicians playing music in every corner.

Senses overload! What do you look at first? Your eyes dart from one costume to the next, you gaze up at the trapeze artists, and your ears strain to hear the different types of music.

That’s how babies feel in the world all the time.

It’s hard for us to imagine it because we’ve learned how to focus on one thing at a time. Not only that, we’ve become accustomed to most things in the world. It takes a lot to surprise us. But your baby is in a state of constantly taking in ALL of the newness around them.

Alison Gopnick, a researcher who looks at child development, says that babies are bad at narrowing down their focus to just one thing but very good at taking in lots of information from different sources at once.

They’re flooded with neurotransmitters that induce learning and plasticity but don’t have inhibitory parts of their brain activated yet.

When people say that babies can’t pay attention it’s more that they’re bad at paying attention to one thing”. Gopnick says. Babies are taking in all things at once.

Adult brains behave differently.

If you entered that circus scenario, your consciousness would expand to take in everything at once too. That’s why new experiences like those feel so memorable and full of adventure.

But we can’t survive in that realm all the time. Adults need to get stuff done! And that takes planning, narrowing down our focus, and a lot of executive function.

Your baby is a scientist collecting data.

Your baby is not concerned with planning for the future. They’re concerned with figuring out how the world in front of them works. I’m sure you’ve noticed this. You can actually see them weighing objects, feeling shapes, assessing temperatures, experimenting with gravity, and identifying patterns.

In an organization babies would be part of the Research and Development team – they’re constantly learning and gathering information. We adults, on the other hand, are here to put that information to good use.

How can we use this information?

Because babies learn through observation, imitation and experimentation, we need to give them plenty of hands on opportunities to do so. 

So Parent, don’t worry if you’re not showing them alphabet flashcards and giving them math drills. Your job is simply to give them space to explore the world, to speak to them (or read to them like this), sing to them, and delight in their surprise with them.

They’ve got their senses open and are ready to take it all in. But don’t be surprised when they meltdown after short periods of time or wake up after short bouts of sleep. Their brains are on overload.

So what’s it like to think like a baby?

It’s like being in love in Paris for the first time after you’ve had three double espressos. That’s a fantastic way to be but it does tend to leave you waking up crying at 3 oclock in the morning.”

Alison Gopnick

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