Why Those Silly Faces and Sounds are So Vital to Your Baby’s Development
We’ve all done it, even if that adorable baby isn’t ours… Yes, we’re talking about pulling goofy faces and repeating random phrases and noises: “Who’s my big boy? WHO’S my BIG BOY?!” “HEEERE’S MR BEAR!!” And so on. It seems that we just fall into this pattern of behaviour as soon as we’re handed a baby and we don’t stop to think about why (or, indeed, who’s watching…). Teenagers, grouchy old men, shopkeepers, you name it, we all start spouting “parentese” – that over-exaggerated, simplistic and repetitive baby-talk.
Why? Well, because it’s essential for an infant’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.
Learning through play and imitation: Babies learn through play and imitation and by presenting them with clear, repetitive and easy-to-follow sounds and gestures, we’re setting them up for a life of learning and (as weird as it sounds) learning to learn.
Meeting Immediate Physical and Comfort Needs – When babies are first born, they may seem to not “know” much beyond hunger, thirst, satiety, discomfort, loneliness and love. However, they are hard-wired with everything they need to expand on their existing knowledge base and to absorb lots of new concepts. Crying with hunger is a reflexive, innate behaviour, but the infant soon learns that it’s the adult with the breasts and certain voice and characteristics who relieves this, so he’ll up the ante when she’s around, even from the age of just a few weeks.
Learning – via Mirroring: Beyond the newborn phase, babies become interested in the wider world and this is when the amazing mirror neurons come into play. These mirror neurons fire when a baby imitates an action or a noise. They trigger an emotional and intellectual response that’s almost like the baby made the noise or action his or herself. Usually, when a baby copies a facial expression or a noise, the adults respond with glee and repeat it back with even more vigour, setting up a feedback loop that biologists believe is the basis of communication, empathy and society itself.
Learning – via Modelling : When babies grow into toddlers, they start to copy the behaviour of the people they see around them. The adults that a child observes on a regular basis are known, in psychology, as “models”, because the child models his behaviour on them. They are hard-wired to copy, as we’ve already seen, and they soon move beyond the “goo-goo, ga-ga” stage to more complex and sophisticated actions and words. You can see young children use the exact gestures and tones of voice as their nearest and dearest. We can never underestimate just how much our little ones are absorbing and learning – laying foundations for today and tomorrow. We begin to also hear them repeat back sounds and gestures from the adults in their worlds – so it is important for us to always remember that little eyes are watching and little ears are listening – so we can remember to model good behaviour!
The Learning process for our babies -is so amazing.