The Do It Yourself baby.

The recent BBC coverage of our project has lead to some interesting questions from parents. Not being a parent myself, I can only give the ‘sciencey’ answer but hopefully this provides a clue

Having watched your recent news piece with respect to baby laughter I was intrigued by your comments on peek-a-boo whereby it is a ‘nice surprise’.Our child, now 9 months old, has enjoyed peek-a-boo since she was 6 months old, but rather than us playing ‘it’ – she does! She pulls a rug in front of herself, or drops her head so her face is hidden, then raises to raise a laugh from us!
I wondered if you had any theories on what this might mean for her development?

Obviously, I don’t know your anything about your daughter so I can’t give you a proper answer to your question. But I think I can safely say that it illustrates two important and overlooked facts that are true of all babies. Firstly, every baby follows a different path through development and secondly, this is because they are mostly teaching themselves as they go along.
We give babies credit for their physical development because it is easy to see their determined efforts and trial and error as they first learn to turn over, then clumsily crawl before pulling themselves up slowly but surely into a triumphant if teetering walk. Not all babies start to crawl or walk at the same time but usually this variation has very little to do with slow or advanced development. Most of the variation comes because different babies have different quite random priorities. It might not occur to one particular baby to try walking because they are currently focused on communication or manipulating objects. And vice versa.
The same processes happen just as much in their social and mental development but we can’t easily see it. Babies experiment with language and with things around them. I think your daughter taking the lead when playing peek-a-boo might be an example of this. She has discovered a new skill for herself and is experimenting with it with your assistance. Peek-a-boo is partly about surprise but it is just as much about social interaction and turn-taking. There are a lot of things a baby can learn from simple games like this and they are pretty boundless in their curiosity.
Here’s another example. Psychologist Deb Roy kitted out his whole house in cameras and filmed the first few years of his son’s life. He found that learning new words takes a LOT of practice.The second video in this article gives you a sense of just how much practice a baby does before getting things right. (learning the word ball.)

Hope that kind of answers your question


If any one else has any other questions please contact me here or on twitter @czzpr. I will have a go at answering them.

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