The human mind is a maze of dreams, experiences, and thoughts. Although telepathy or mind reading is an intriguing topic, scientists agree that even lie detector tests cannot represent the full spectrum of people’s cognition and emotions.
When it comes to infants, researchers are still perplexed by the topic of child development. In the past, psychologists claimed that a baby’s mind is just a labyrinth of confusions. Interestingly enough, some philosophers still believe in the concept behind tabula rasa – or the idea that people are born without any personality traits and it’s only experiences that guide one’s thinking in life. Today, doctors agree that babies can feel and learn at a rapid pace. Infants can recognize faces, respond to names, and communicate. They can even dream and laugh. As cognitive psychologist Sue Hespos says, "Babies are little experimenters. They gather information about their environment and are phenomenal at picking up patterns. Babies aren't concerned with earth-shattering philosophical questions, but they are thinking a lot about how objects behave and interact."
Although people can’t read minds, there are certain subtle signals and non-verbal hints that can help parents guess what their little one might be thinking. So, here are 20 things your baby is probably thinking, according to science.
20 "Look At That!" - Differentiating Objects And People
Child development is a curios topic. Infants learn at a rapid pace, with genetic and social factors playing a crucial role in a baby’s life. Infant vision development is also a vital aspect. You might be surprised, but your mini-me actually loves reflecting on their surroundings.
Differentiating objects from people is an important part of this process. In fact, according to the March of Dimes, babies are drawn to human faces soon after birth. At around three months of age, a child will be able to recognize their Mommy and Daddy. In addition, babies enjoy staring at their own reflection - probably thinking how cute they are.
19 "I Can't Believe It!" - Babies Are Little Experimenters
While gazing at objects and faces helps kids learn about their surroundings, tactile learning is essential. Little kids love touching and licking objects… as well as people. It’s a sign they’re curious about their surroundings. Children are little explorers and their senses guide them through life.
Nevertheless, fine motor skills are hard to master, so don’t be surprise your baby puts almost everything in their mouth. In fact, experts claim this behavior fosters their development. According to parents.com, mouthing is your baby’s way to check if something is soft, sweet or squeaky. After all, the whole world is a colorful playground.
18 "That's Nice" - Primary Reactions And Learning
Children love trying new things. To be more precise, a baby’s primary reactions can help them learn quicker. According to the famous psychologists Piaget, the sensorimotor stage of development (0 to 24 months) is an exciting period. The first three months, in particular, are marked by a constant repetition of pleasurable activities (e.g. sucking).
As described earlier, mouthing helps babies learn about shapes and tastes. Parents may wonder what their little one is thinking after devouring a whole snail, but don’t worry! Your little one is simply reflecting on their actions and the fact they can do things they like.
17 "Am I Safe?" - Stranger Anxiety
Psychologists reveal that babies can experience strong emotions. While they can’t understand emotions and feelings completely, their basic needs guide them through life. Researcher Pamela Cole says, "Generally speaking, emotions begin in infancy in ways that look familiar but aren't true emotional experiences."
Nevertheless, babies seek safety, and stranger anxiety may make them wonder if they’re safe. Note that stranger anxiety peaks between six and 12 months of age. It’s a common part of a child’s development. The fact your little one crawls towards you when a stranger enters the room is also a sign they trust and value you.
16 "Where Did It Go?" - Learning About Object Permanence
While nobody can read another person’s mind (yet!), experts believe that one of the most exciting cognitive tasks for babies is object permanence. Object permanence happens after object recognition (or after three months of age). It’s defined as the ability to understand that things don’t cease to exist - even when they're out of sight.
"Where did it go?" is one of the main questions your little one is trying to solve. With time, though, your little bundle of joy will be able to tell that their favorite Teddy bear is under the blanket. They also know you’ll come back – hopefully with their favorite biscuit.
15 "Don't Leave Me" - Separation Anxiety
Although babies are brave explorers, many children get upset around strangers. Stranger anxiety, as explained earlier, is a normal part of a child’s development. It’s not only separation anxiety, though. Children experience a wide range of unpleasant emotions, including separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is defined as a child’s worry that their parents will disappear forever… only because they can’t be seen. This phenomenon is linked to object permanence and persists until kids grasp a better concept of time.
Seeing your baby cry when you leave the room might be hard, but don’t worry – it’s a normal part of life.
14 "Can You Hear Me?" - Experimenting With Their Vocal Cords
Babies learn to communicate already in the utero. Your little one loves exploring the magic of their vocal cords, and they are really amazed you can hear them. Psychologist Piaget revealed that around four months of age, infants start to understand that things can trigger a reaction. Isn’t it amazing that their rattle toy can make noises when one shakes it?
When it comes to coos and cries, it’s the same. So, don’t forget your little one knows their cries can get them attention and cuddles.
13 "Maybe I Can Try Again" - Trial And Error
Children should explore the world on their own. Trial-and-error experimentation is a vital aspect of a child’s development. The fact your little bundle of joy can try new things is more than amazing. Therefore, never correct your child’s play. If they don’t play with a toy - but a box instead – let them keep trying.
As author Willard says "You’ve also likely witnessed how creative and engaged kids become when they have to invent new toys and games out of virtually nothing. If necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps boredom is its father." Let your child mess up and cry. This will help them learn quicker!
12 "Can You See Me?" - Peekaboo Is Fun
Object recognition and permanence are two phenomena that occupy a child’s mind a lot. That’s why parents shouldn’t be surprised that their kids love playing peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek. In fact, such games are fun and educational all at the same time. Peek-a-boo games can boost brain development and face recognition.
It’s interesting to mention that self-recognition comes a bit later, around 15 months of age. Letting your baby gaze at their reflection can foster self-recognition and self-awareness. We should note that self-recognition is an essential factor for a child's emotional development.
11 "I'm So Sad" - Meeting A Baby's Basic Needs
Emotions are vital. Your baby’s basic needs may influence their emotional experiences. According to the famous psychologist Maslow, people’s needs are arranged in a hierarchy, represented as a pyramid. Basic psychological needs include food, sleep, and safety; followed by social and ego needs. The last level is the so-called growth need or self-actualization, which is hard to reach.
That’s why parents should try to meet a baby’s basic needs to help them grow and create positive emotional experiences. Communicate, smile, and laugh with your baby, mama! There’s no doubt that your cutie enjoys being around you!
10 "Who Am I?" - Your Baby Is Learning About Their Body And Experiences
Babies are natural scientists. They enjoy exploring their surroundings and their own arms and legs. They also try to answer a fundamental question: "Who am I?"
With time, your baby will learn to open and shut their fists. They’ll suck on their fingers and toes. Their coordination will get better and better, and they’ll be amazed by how much they can achieve. For instance, "Wow, I can actually hold this huge pen and draw on the walls." Your little one will learn through their own experiences and realize that they have to wait for their milk to cool down. There’s simply so much to consider and enjoy!
9 "We're One" - Baby And Mama Are Connected
Child development is wonderful. As a matter of fact, children start learning already in the womb. Yet, due to the complexity of the human brain, scientists prove that humans need more time to develop. Infants need a caregiver to survive, which helps them create a bond for life.
Therefore, it’s common for babies to think that their caregiver is an integrated part of their lives – not a separate human with dreams and needs. That’s right, mama, your monster thinks you’re tied to them. As a result, Dada is often the first word a child utters - simply because Dada is the first person a baby acknowledges.
8 "Wow, You Can Actually Understand Me" - First Words
Communication helps people share emotions, thoughts, and survival information. So, it’s no surprise infants try to communicate. Crying, laughing, copying – the range of their expressions is precious. Scientists claim that around nine months of age, babies can understand basic commands and words. Between 12 and 18 months, kids can start talking. In fact, they do not only repeat words but know what they’re saying.
To boost your child’s language skills, mama, you can repeat their words, babble back, and respond to your little mini-me. By responding to your baby’s coos, you can actually benefit their self-esteem later in life.
7 "I'm The Center Of The Universe" - Egocentric Thinking
Children are cute, but parenthood is not a walk in the park. Kids need lots of attention, they need someone to meet their basic needs on demand. This is normal, though. According to Piaget, children’s thoughts are egocentric – they think everything revolves around them. In addition, according to psychologists George Butterworth and Margaret Harris, kids cant’t understand what’s subjective and what’s not.
But don’t worry, mama - egocentric thinking in children is not selfishness. Egocentric thinking is a normal part of a child’s development. In fact, parents can easily teach their kids how to share toys and interact with people.
6 "You're Not So Bad" - Socializing And Friends
Social interactions are essential. As explained above, children need some time to understand that other people also have dreams, feelings, rights, and thoughts. According to verywellmind.com, "Developmental psychologists refer to the ability to understand that other people have different perspectives thoughts, feelings, and mental states as theory of mind."
So, parents need to help their little one develop basic social and language skills. Moms and dads need to encourage playtime and sharing. We should note that learning friendship skills in toddlerhood can help children later in life. We all need a best buddy, right!
5 "Ha, I Can Actually Manipulate You" - Babies Are Really Smart
Although kids are adorable, there’s no doubt that even toddlers know how to manipulate their parents. Screams, moods, tantrums, and lies – it’s all a normal part of a child’s development. As psychologist Susan Rutherford says, "Children can learn how to get certain responses from their parents from a very young age. Typically not before 15 months, but some kids can understand this dynamic really quickly."
Since kids know how to use their charms and cries, moms and dads should learn to prevent manipulative behaviors. Manipulation and lies in teens are really hard to manage, so try to establish a relationship based on trust.
4 "I Love You" - Parents Are More Than Providers
Love is a magical force, and scientists prove that even infants are able to experience deep feelings. It’s not a secret that the bond between parents and their bundle of joy is divine. When a baby learns to trust their caregivers, they develop a secure attachment style. Infants whose basic needs of food and attention are met can express their love. Coos, smiles, and hugs are some of the obvious signs of respect and happiness.
When a child develops a secure attachment style, they'll feel more confident to interact with their surroundings and other people. Love simply helps them thrive!
3 "Again!" - Repetition And Rituals
Pediatricians agree that rituals help kids learn and flourish. Infants need routines that help them feel safe and happy. Predictability and love can help children develop a sense of self-worth. When a baby tries to get attention, they need to know that their caregiver will be consistent in their responses. In fact, inconsistency can be more upsetting than lack of attention.
From bedtime rituals to reading a book over and over again, repetition is vital for children. It gives them a feeling of control over their surroundings. Even older kids need some stability. Let’s admit it – we all expect to go to bed after we put our pajamas on.
2 "Leave Me Alone!" - Boredom Is Normal
As explained above, babies learn at a rapid pace. There are so many stimuli and fun activities that engage their attention and brain networks. So, it’s normal for babies to get tired or bored of something. They might need some time away from their parents.
They need some me-time to reflect on their experiences and rest. It’s not a secret that people need sleep to process the incredible things they experience every day. So, if you see your little one yawn, frown or gaze away, just give them some space. Let them snooze away in their sweet dreams!
1 "You're Funny" - Smiling And Laughing
Seeing a baby smile is one of the best things ever. Yet, parents wonder if their little one is actually happy when they smile. We should note that by smiling, infants can show they want to interact and communicate. As Dr. Cole says, "An important milestone is when babies are smiling in relation to someone and coordinating their behavior with the other person's."
At around four months of age, smiling can transform into laughing, a reaction to funny faces and familiar objects. So, don’t worry, your baby finds you funny. Just careful with your silly jokes, Dada!
Sources: parents.com, psychologytoday.com, verywellmind.com, webmd.com