What Do Babies Think?

how babies think

Conventional wisdom suggests that newborn babies are relatively helpless. However, studies show that babies have cognitive abilities that far exceed our expectations. Learn from Bright Horizons experts about the brain of a baby and how babies think.

Babies may enter the world with brains that appear unsophisticated, but they absorb and understand more than we realize. Babies notice, process, and file everything adults and children around them say and do. Most of their learning occurs through their senses.

Here are some facts about how babies think and what you can do at home to encourage your baby’s brain development.

How Babies Grow and Develop

Become inspired by Bright Horizons educators with activities from World at Home, including these that will create connection and help your baby build new skills.

Language Sense: Babies as young as 8-months-old can distinguish patterns in their own language from background sounds. Get out a Discovery Basket and clearly name and label each object as you and your baby explore language together.

Number Sense: Babies six months or younger notice the difference between a large group of objects or pictures and a smaller group (for example, the difference between five dots and 13 dots). Try the Ribbon Pull activity at home and watch your infant practice building focus and concentration skills.

People Sense: Infant brains thrive from secure emotional attachments to caregivers, leading to the development of more advanced social-emotional skills through infancy and toddlerhood. Babies can practice identifying emotions from facial expressions with this Feelings Game.

What Babies Need from Adults

Watch and “tune in” to what babies are telling us. Our full human presence — paying attention to babies and talking about their interests — is critical. We need to slow down enough to observe babies, understand their interests, and note what they communicate.  

Provide interesting materials for babies to explore. An experience is even better when it is shared with another person. In other words, interesting materials alone are not enough—actively engage with your baby during these experiences.  

Webinar: Inside the Minds of Babies and Toddlers

On this webinar, our early educator experts explore how babies and toddlers communicate. Visit World at Home for the complete archive of our parent education webinar series.

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

October 1, 2020

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Whether you’re looking for parenting advice, or trying to figure out how to bring learning from the classroom to the family room, let Bright Horizons early education experts be your trusted, knowledgeable resource. Get our weekly newsletter for all things early child development—from the benefits of pretend play to at-home STEM activities, and teaching kindness—along with encouragement for every stage of your parenting journey.