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How Babies Learn

Dear Debi,
I have been in the care of a 13-month-old baby since she was 2 weeks old; it amazes me to see her learn so fast! Should I be doing “special” things to keep her development growing?
Nicole, Westlake Village, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Babies learn through all of their senses
  • Continuous positive interaction is essential to their development
  • A child’s personality and rate of learning is unique
Expert Advice
Gay MacDonald
Gay MacDonald
Executive Director, UCLA Early Care and Education
Babies learn through all of their senses – touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. They explore things and want to handle objects and put them in their mouths to learn about them. Babies are constantly taking in information when they are awake, which means that they are learning all the time.

Infants learn from everything they do and see. That is why it’s important to have a continuous positive interaction with them even when you are changing their diaper. If a child care provider changes them without any thought or sensitivity, babies will pick up on it, and forever taint their own attitudes towards their bodies.

If a child care provider, on the other hand, takes the time to connect with the child during these moments and talks them through it, children will learn to care and respond to their needs.

Infants are smarter than what we think; they understand the intent of language, even though they may not understand the meaning of words. They can read through our attitudes and learn from them. As child care providers, we need to nurture and constantly be aware of the attitudes we are putting forth to our children.

Lastly, remember that children have their own personalities and will develop and learn at different rates. They also have certain predispositions and preferences, which will reflect in their personalities.

Take your time to get to know the child!
Child Care provider Comments
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
Changing diapers is a big deal for me, that is why I have created a special area for it; it has a mobile and pictures of children all over the wall. Even if they are too young to understand me, I talk to them during diaper change.

I explain to them what I am doing and why. If they’re infants, I make sure to use more inflection and feeling in my voice because babies tend to respond to your emotions. I strongly believe that this time is crucial for building trust and emotional security.
Darlene Patterson
Darlene Patterson
Family child care provider for 22 years and mother of three
Giving babies the room to explore and grow is very important. I don’t think that they learn if they are confined to small spaces such as a playpen or if their activities or toys are limited at that age.
Child care provider for 8 years
I know that babies are constantly learning about themselves and their environment. I’ve noticed, for example, that some babies are conscious of their bodies during diaper change, they cry and hide their face when they are being changed in public, but are perfectly fine when they are alone.

If I am aware of that, I make an extra effort to hold them, and explain to them what is happening. This helps them build up confidence in themselves and their bodies.

Sound Garden Featured Activity:
Sound Garden
Sensory Garden for Infants Featured Video:
Sensory Garden for Infants
Topic: Child Development
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