Advice from experts on babies and learning

Learning among children begins earlier than you think

A father holds his child in Aijia Village, Hubei Province, in 2015.
UNICEF/China/2015/Xia Yong

Learning begins literally from the time babies are born and there's even some evidence there's learning inside of the womb.

Alison Gopnik, Ph.D.

So when babies are born, for instance, they discriminate between the sounds of the language that they've heard and the sounds of another language. So they're already seeing, hearing and making sense of what's going on around them.

Alison Gopnik, Ph.D., Psychologist and researcher, University of California

 From the moment of birth, when you cut the cord, that baby is taking in the environment, is responding to the environment, is learning.

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

In the old days, 10 years ago, people would say, "So when does a baby start to see?" or "When does a baby start to hear?" Or people would think about learning in preparation for school, people would say, "The year before you start school we should make sure that a child is oriented towards learning." Learning doesn't begin then, learning starts in infancy. Babies are learning all the time. So, I think that the most important message about the early childhood years is that there's a lot going on inside that little head, right from the moment of birth. And we need to understand it, we need to respect it, we need to understand how much what happens early on can affect things later on. 

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Director, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

 I think that what you see when you watch a child that walks into a preschool and is curious and eager to learn is a child who's had positive experiences before she/he even got to preschool.

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.

She/he has had nurturing and responsive parents, has been in a safe environment, has had good, healthy nutrition. That child comes with a set of skills and a set of interests in life, in exploring, in playing, in socially playing well with others, that a child that doesn't have those experiences doesn't come with. 

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D., International specialist in Child Development and Public Policy

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