You might have heard that the youngest brains are the most sponge-like and impressionable. But did you know that the average baby cranium lights up well before birth? Medical experts have found that peak infant brain activity usually begins during month 5 of gestation, and lasts until they're 5 years old! This gives parents plenty of time to introduce their babies to everything from reading to talking to practicing proper country club etiquette. And while it’s never “too early” to begin educating your baby, you can increase the odds of a more productive and pleasant teacher-pupil relationship by remembering a few essential truths.
Since your baby's brain is already in active “LEARN EVERYTHING” mode, half of your job is already done. You won’t have to worry about commanding your student’s attention with puppet shows, Sigmund Freud impressions, or other methods your high school history teacher might have tried.
Learning enthusiasm aside, be careful not to force any lessons or activities upon your baby. Attempting a teaching moment when your baby seems hungry, tired, or distracted could sap the fun from the lesson and lead to some tears of frustration.
It's tempting to bump your star pupil to the top of the class, but, like anyone, your baby needs to learn to walk before she can run, both physically and metaphorically. Maybe one of the proudest moments of your childhood was that moment where you could sing the state capitals, but if your baby can't say her own name yet, you might have to wait a few years to share that particular joy. Instead, enjoy your baby's baby-steps.
When a lot of us hear the word “lesson,” we tend to hear “work” - as in, the opposite of “recess” or “lunch.” Baby lessons should never feel like hard labor. The best approach to baby education is to involve play elements whenever possible. If you can teach your baby the alphabet by letting her pick up various household objects, go for it! Would your baby’s stuffed ape be an ideal tool for demonstrate object permanence? Get that gorilla! Who knows? The two of you might find yourselves laughing in harmony.
Learning can be a great way for some new families to get a head-start growing and bonding together, but waiting a few years to start trying to share your wisdom with your baby isn't going to hurt her intellectual development. Teaching her the ABCs years before kindergarten is less important at this point than spending lots of time snuggling your baby, laughing with her, and building a strong bond together. If you start to feel like learning is getting in the way of time you and your baby could be spending enjoying each other, maybe it's time to set the lessons aside for a little while in favor of just having some fun. And remember, everything is a learning experience for your baby. Even if you're just spending time with your baby, enjoying her company, she is guaranteed to learn from that, too.