Baby’s Brain in Week 40
Sometime between 10 and 11 months of age, babies begin to follow grown-ups’ gazes. If you’re holding Baby while looking out the window at a bird flying by, he will notice the direction in which your eyes are looking and peer in that same direction.
Realize that right now your baby sees you as a font of knowledge; he understands that you’re interested in what you look at, and he wants to know what you know. As you express interest in birdies, he’ll follow your glance, thinking, “Hmm, important stuff! I need to know this, too.” Plus, research illustrates that if you talk about what the two of you are seeing, you’ll enhance your child’s language development as well as his trust in your sharing of information.
What the Research Shows
In a research setting, 10- to 11-month-old babies sat on their mothers’ laps. Across the table sat an experimenter who engaged each baby by playing with him or her for about 10 minutes. Then, without saying a word, the experimenter gazed either to the right or the left at an object for about six seconds.
Most of the babies followed the experimenter’s gaze, but some looked at the targeted object longer than other children involved in the experiment. What did this mean? Well, in this longitudinal study, two-year-olds who looked longer had acquired more extensive vocabularies—identifying a correlation between gazing and language development.
Week 40 Brain Booster
When their baby begins using language is one of the most gratifying moments for parents, even if “Mama” and “Dada” aren’t the first words. Rather than little ones grunting and whining for what they want, it’s wonderful when they can say “ball” (meaning, “roll that thing to me!”) or “more juice.” While children acquire language at different ages, some sooner than others, parents want to do all they can to support that language development.
When you notice that your child is following your gaze, pause and talk about what you’re seeing and what Baby is looking at. While there’s no way to force a child to look longer at an object than she deems necessary, you can support her interest in following your gaze by indulging her with descriptions of the event.
And also, you can return the favor: If your child is looking at something, look at it too and describe it. As more of her language develops, deliberate looks will turn into regular exclamations of “What’sat?” and lots of pointing.