Watching Babies Think: Reaching, Grabbing, and Putting It in the Mouth
When my youngest daughter was born, my husband told me not to fret about his expertise with child care. After all, she was “just an infant—feed ’em and change ‘em and they’re just fine.” I knew he knew better, but like most of us moms, I was a bit more obsessed with the details.
When my husband joked about sticking to the basics, he was reminding me that nature really runs the show in human development. We are hard-wired for thinking, speaking, and moving. Typically, developing babies will walk and talk whether they get practice or not. However, the research also informs us that there is nothing more motivating for a baby to use nature’s assets than the loving encouragement of a parent.
Okay, it can get a little boring, watching an infant think. Let’s face it; you’re doing all the encouraging talk, while baby just appears to be staring blankly at your mouth. But in the first 3 months, look out for hand-watching because that’s an early sign your baby will soon merge instinct with intent. Babies will take aim with this new found thing we call a hand (intent) and bring the whole fist up to their mouth where it can be examined more thoroughly (instinct).
By 3 months most babies will discover their arms and fists can be used to support their chest as they try to hold their head up at tummy time. Your baby may start to reach for a rattle or the infant mobile in the crib. I had two babies who enjoyed grabbing and holding my thumb or another finger just for comfort as they fell asleep.
By 6 months, babies’ hand and arm control will permit them to show you a “favorite” toy or thingamajig that they have picked from the many you have provided. Even if you are the easy going mom who’s not obsessing over every little thing, it is still fascinating to see your baby becoming the “master of their universe.” Food, papers, whatever is within their reach teaches them about textures, materials, temperature, and safety. These very early encounters which combine thinking with physical maturation are the foundation for a rapid acceleration of skills that will literally explode in the next six months.