Ever see that commercial for “My Baby Can Read”? No offense, but I think it’s sort of silly.
Let’s say there was a neighbor that was reluctant to enroll a 5-moth-old baby into an infant stimulation class. In this class the baby would “learn” to reading and mathematics.
There is nothing wrong with exposing a young child to reading, adding and subtraction. According to Dr. Lin Day, early experiences play an important role later with math and science learning in school. By introducing a child to math through play, it may help them build an interest for future learning.
However, I would tell this parent to beware of any false hope. Five-month-old babies do not possess the mental capacities that school-aged children do. They may be able to eventually understand the concept of order (the number 3 follow the number 2), but it is doubtful that they will leave an infant stimulation class with the ability to count nonetheless add or subtract (Day, 2008).
In the DVD, The Baby Human: “To Walk”, there are a few babies that are crawling on a raised checkered floor. The floor next to it is an optical illusion—the checkered floor is down below a glass surface, so it appears to the child that if he or she crawls on top of it, they may plummet through (although they won’t because of the clear, glass surface). What is interesting is that these babies were able to use logical thinking skills. They looked down and recognized that it may have been unsafe for them to continue across the unit. In reality, the children were wrong—the glass would have saved them from falling. So while I am commending the children for using reasoning skills, this test from the DVD proves that they only did what was appropriate for their age group. These children were far too young to understand that if they simply put one hand on the glass to determine if they would fall through or not, then they would have been able to crawl across. Therefore, how can a child of the same learning caliber possibly comprehend any kind of mathematical or reading skills? In the end, 5-month-old babies do not have the cognitive capacity for such a level of learning.
I personally believe that infants can only be prepped for what the type of learning that they will be exposed to in the future. For example, the University of Vienna concluded that there is no proof that listening to Mozart or any type of “passive learning” provides miraculous reasoning benefits. It has been found though, that children that receive musical or instrumental instruction excel in fine motor skills, tone discrimination, and vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning. Other researchers claim that these children also do well in mathematical reasoning and spatial relationships (Their, 2010).
Each of these studies back up the claim that a 5-month-old child does not have an advanced-enough learning capacity to learn math or reading. As I’ve mentioned, it is great to introduce babies to learning strategies, but we shouldn’t expect any newsworthy results. It’s only the first step in enhancing the developments of a child. As Their states in his article: “…you may need to do more than put on a CD during playtime”.
In addition, why are we rushing children to learn so much, so soon? They won’t stay babies for long and when they are grown then trust me, you will wish you had cherished those goo-goo gah-gah moments with all your hearts.
Day, Dr. Lin. “Babies and Mathematics.” Baby Sensory. N.p., 2008. Web. 24 July 2012. <http://www.babysensory.com/Downloads/MathsEN.pdf>.
The Baby Human: “To Walk” Discovery, n.d. DVD.
Thier, Dave. “‘Mozart Effect’ on Babies a Myth, Research Says.” AOL News. America Online, 11 May 2010. Web. 24 July 2012. <http://www.aolnews.com/2010/05/11/mozart-effect-on-babies-a-myth-research-says/>.