Mental notes on your baby's cognitive development
Valerie Ellis is mooning over her baby daughter’s first smiles when her two-year-old son, Tiernan, suddenly appears with lipstick smeared over the lower half of his face. The Aurora, Ont., mother of six sighs. “Have you been into Mommy’s makeup?” she asks him. The toddler looks at her wide-eyed. “Nooooo,” he says, deadly serious.
Though her baby’s behaviour is completely charming and her toddler’s, well, less so, both of Ellis’s children are actually demonstrating that their cognitive development is right on track.
From their earliest months right on up through the toddler years, children do things that reflect not only their growing physical skills, but also their cognitive development — their ability to think, reason and remember. But when you’re busy with a baby and wiping your toddler’s face clean, revelling in your child’s expanding mind is probably not foremost in your head.
To help you make a mental note of your child’s burgeoning brain skills, here’s a look at typical baby and toddler behaviour and what it can tell you about where your child’s head is at.
The social smile
By around the six-week mark, babies reward their exhausted parents by smiling back at them when they are smiled at. It’s a heart-melting moment, for sure. But there’s another “mental milestone smile” to watch for about six weeks later. “Mom or dad comes into the room and baby smiles that glorious, full-blown smile without any prompting,” says Claire B. Kopp, the California author of the child development book Baby Steps: A Guide to Your Child’s Social, Physical, Mental and Emotional Development in the First Two Years. “That smile indicates an awareness, interest and desire to interact.”
It also shows your baby is:
• learning to express joy about things that happen around her
• improving her memory skills
• figuring out how to socialize with a favoured adult
Brain boost: Every time you smile back and pay attention to your little grinner, you encourage her. So keep smiling!