|| DukeMedNews || New Babies and their Educational Process

Suggested lead: That future Nobel Prize winner you recently brought home from the hospital might actually be even smarter than you thought. Tom Britt has more.

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Until recently, common wisdom held that an infant did not start learning until he or she started doing. That assumption, made popular by the authority on child development Jean Piaget, is now being turned on its ear. Duke University child psychologist Amy Needham says numerous studies clearly show that infants also learn by watching, called observational learning.

“That’s not to say that there isn’t an important role for baby’s own manipulations of objects, even when they’re really little. All that’s really very important, but one of the new ideas around is that this learning can take place earlier, even before babies start to interact with objects directly.”

Needham says there is evidence to show that babies as young as two to four months display an awareness of basic physical properties. The bottom line for parents who want to promote learning is to provide babies with plenty of visual stimuli such as angles, colors, shadings and movement to keep them interested and challenged. I’m Tom Britt.

Needham says several studies have shown that infants do not have to be old enough to handle an object themselves to start learning.

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“In some of our studies as well as other studies around the country, people have shown that young babies seem to have knowledge about physical principles. And they seem to have this knowledge, at least this very basic kind of knowledge, around two to four months of age. And this is before the time that babies are really engaging in extensive manipulations of objects on their own.”