Your baby’s mental leaps in the first year

Your baby’s mental leaps in the first year

Why do all babies seem to go through a difficult period around the same time? Babies cry during leaps for good reason. Their development suddenly undergoes drastic changes. That is a good thing: it provides an opportunity to learn new things. That ‘being difficult’ is therefore actually a sign that an amazing development has occurred. In this article you can read more about the mental leaps babies take in their first year.

Just like the physical growth spurts children can go through, children’s mental development occurs through a process of leaps. Neurological research has shown that such leaps occur at the same time as changes in the brain. The Wonder Weeks describes the ten leaps in mental development that every child goes through in their first twenty months of life. The book explains how a baby’s view of the world changes with every leap and how they can use this insight to develop new skills, skills they require for their further development.

In the first year, your baby goes through no fewer than eight leaps.

Your child enters a new world eight times, in which they can perceive new things that they couldn’t before. How should you imagine that? Below we give a short glimpse into the world as your baby experiences it with every leap.

5 weeks: Growing and a tear

Around this leap, everything points to a rapid maturation of your baby’s metabolism, intestines, and sensory organs. Your baby is clearly more interested in the world around them, and can now see better beyond a distance of 20 to 30 centimeters. As a mother, you will notice your baby responds more to you and others now. Your baby can also produce tears for the first time or more often than before.

8 weeks: The world is no longer ‘soup’

From this leap, your baby no longer experiences the world as one entirety, as ‘soup’. They start to differentiate fixed ‘patterns’ in the soup. For example: they discover their hands. They look at them with curiosity and twist and turn them around. Your baby loses many automatic reflexes and starts ‘consciously’ feeling the things they do with their body. All the movements your baby makes still look rather wooden.

12 weeks: The secret of playing airplanes

In the first year, your baby learns things that seem so simple to us adults that we don’t even think about them. Yet for babies these are the highest attainable goals and thus their ultimate experiences. They enter the worlds of fixed ‘patterns’ and ‘smooth transitions’. You will notice your baby’s movements becoming less wooden, less robotic than before. The changes are also clear in the way they play with their vocal sounds. This development is the reason that babies like to play ‘airplanes’ so much, where you fly them around the room in your arms, make steep diving motions and then take off again – just to name one example.

19 weeks: Clap, clap, clap your hands

The next world is one of ‘events’. Until your baby has taken this leap, they can only perceive one smooth transition. Now, baby can see, hear, smell, taste, and even create a short series of ‘smooth transitions’. Examples are a bouncing ball, a waving hand or grabbing something with their hand. Your baby will enjoy traditional children’s songs with gestures, such as ‘Clap, clap. Clap your hands.’

26 weeks: In, on, behind, in front, and how far?

When your baby is about six months old, they enter the world of ‘relationships’. How is one thing related to another? At this point, it is all about simple things such as the distance between objects and the position things have in relation to each other: a block is in, on, or around the box, for instance. Your baby may also start crying all of a sudden when you move farther away from them. Your baby now understands that the distance between you can increase!

37 weeks: Looking, comparing and classifying

The world of ‘categories’ comes now. Your baby has to learn that a horse is not a dog, for example, or that a black and white spotted cat is not a cow. That demands a lot of looking and comparing, and your baby will enjoy going out into the wide world with you during this period.

46 weeks: That’s why puree flies through the air!

In the world of ‘successions’ your baby learns to recognize and control the flow of events and relationships. Eating puree with a spoon, for example, means: grabbing the spoon, putting some puree on the spoon, moving the spoon towards your face, and putting it in your mouth (and not in your eye, for instance). Your baby cannot yet complete the whole program of ‘eating puree with a spoon’ all by themselves, but they can grasp two or three parts in a row: ‘grabbing the spoon, putting it in the puree, and then bashing it up and down’, for example. If you let your baby get on with it, it creates quite a mess. But with a piece of plastic under the high chair and a lot of patience this will be a good investment which will repay itself two-fold and more.

55 weeks: Doing the dishes is one big party

Your baby is now able to see a whole series of actions as one thing. They know a dirty plate has to be put in water that you rub it with a brush or sponge, put the plate in the drying rack, and that the whole is then ‘washed’. They love helping with this type of chore. And, of course, with lots of soapy water!

You can read all about the leaps in the book The Wonder Weeks.

If you would like to receive the free ‘leaps alarm clock’ by mail that lets you know when your baby is taking a leap in their mental development, then sign up for the free “The Wonder Weeks Leaps Alarm”.