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Your Brilliant Baby in Week 35: Counting Events in a Sequence

Baby’s Brain in Week 35

You likely won’t believe this one: Babies as young as five months (and certainly yours now at nine) can actually count. Not that they can say, “one, two, three” or count out their favorite stuffed pals one by one—those are toddler skills to look forward to.

But by week 24, your child was beginning to grasp primitive math skills. And now, at this age, babies know when a set of two or three events have occurred, and they will anticipate a specific number of next events to take place.

What the Research Shows

An experimenter established a pattern of flashing pictures that he showed to babies. A picture flashed two times on the left side of each baby in the experiment, and then another picture flashed three times on the child’s right side.

Once this alternating pattern was established, the experimenter watched as each infant’s gaze turned from the left side (after the second picture of the two had appeared) to the right side: Each baby looked expectedly for the next series of three flashing pictures. And after those three pictures flashed on the right, each baby would again turn his head, waiting for the next series of two flashing pictures to his left. Clearly, the infants had these specific number patterns down!

Week 35 Brain Booster

So if you rigged a nursery system by which you could show your own baby two blinking pictures of, say, a cow to the right of his crib and then three flashing pictures of a dog to the left of it, he would—ta-da!—know and prepare for this sequence after viewing it only a few times.

But who has the set-up (or time) for an at-home experiment like that? Instead, just know that right now, your baby knows which events follow others once you establish a predictable routine. When he cries from hunger and you lift your shirt to nurse, your baby will calm down because he anticipates what’s coming next: nipple, food, full tummy.

Soon your baby will know his naptime and bedtime routines, which prepare him for sleep. Babies and young children don’t follow the clock; they follow routines. And once established, routines are hard to break so make sure they’re positive, simple, and pleasant for the both of you.