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Intellectual Development of Babies

by Cara Batema

You might easily take note of when your infant gets bigger or smiles at you, but you might not think to measure your baby’s “smarts.” The first year of a baby’s life is a period of incredible growth, and a baby’s brain goes through critical periods during which stimulation is needed for proper development. Through physical growth and encouragement from caregivers, babies become smarter, and you will see this intellectual development with your baby’s newfound abilities.

Brain Development

An infant’s brain development is the gate key for his intellectual development. During the first years of life, input such as visual stimuli or verbal language is necessary for areas of the brain to grow; without this growth, a child’s vision or speaking abilities might be impaired. Responsibility falls on the caregiver to fuel brain development. According to Zero to Three, loving and warm caregiving encourages infants to explore their environments, which is the basis for learning.

Birth to 6 Months

You might have noticed your infant has different cries for hunger or pain, and you probably love to hear her babble and coo. These abilities show your child is gaining communication and pre-language skills. Infants from birth to 6 months will forget about objects they cannot see, but they will explore objects they can see and grab by putting them in their mouths. They will also follow moving objects with their eyes and look around at nearby objects. Infants in this stage will turn to look at a source of sound. These developmental milestones show a baby’s brain is developing and she is gaining new skills.

Seven to 12 Months

During the period between 7 and 12 months, infants will babble words like “dada” and “mama,” much to a parent's delight, but they don’t quite yet associate a meaning with these words. Children in this stage will wave “bye bye.” Infants also learn the idea of cause and effect, and they might repeat an action that generates a certain response; for example, they will shake a rattle and listen to its noise. While younger infants will forget about objects you hide, older infants will look for things they see you hide. Infants in this stage also still explore objects by putting them in their mouths. They are better able to pass objects from hand to hand, and they can even pick up items like cereal between their thumbs and index fingers.

Activities for Intellectual Development

Since responsive caregiving seems to be ideal for stimulating brain development, holding, rocking and singing to your baby shows warmth and love. Playing with your baby shows you have genuine interest and encourages him to play and explore even more. Talking to your baby or reading a book helps develop language skills. Putting bright toys nearby but just out of reach gives your infant visual stimulation and motivation to move in order to grab the objects. Place a mirror at eye level so your baby can look at himself; infants won’t know just yet that they’re looking at their own reflections, but they often love watching the person in the mirror. Musical toys provide auditory feedback and teach cause and effect. Touchy-feely books or other toys with various textures give your infant interesting tactile experiences. These activities and toys encourage exploration, which leads to brain development and your infant reaching intellectual development milestones.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot/Polka Dot/Getty Images