Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple Research Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Child's Developing Mind

Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple Research Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Child's Developing Mind

by Amber Ankowski, Andy Ankowski


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781613730638
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/01/2015
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,191,836
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 2.20(d)

About the Author

Amber Ankowski earned her PhD in developmental psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She teaches psychology at various California universities, including courses designed to instruct future educators how best to teach young children. Andy Ankowski is an award-winning advertising copywriter who specializes in explaining complex products and services in simple and humorous ways. They are the parents of a baby and a toddler. Visit The Doctor and the Dad online at

Read an Excerpt

Think Like a Baby

33 Simple Research Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Child's Developing Mind

By Amber Ankowski, Andy Ankowski

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2015 Amber Ankowski and Andy Ankowski
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61373-066-9



Tiny Tunes

Think you have to wait until your baby is actually born to start running tests on it? Think again. Your first opportunity to turn your child into your own personal guinea pig comes well before your due date.

This experiment is intended to give you your very first glimpse into how your adorable little fetus's memory works. It can also give you a chance to start the parent-child bonding process early.

Because who really wants to wait until the kid's a full-fledged infant to do that?

So you're getting ready to have a baby. Congratulations! Fifteen years from now, your child isn't going to listen to a single word you say. But right now, while that little angel is still trapped inside Mommy's uterus, you have a captive audience. It doesn't matter what you say or how offkey you sing, your kid has nothing else to do these days but listen to you. And listening — and remembering — is exactly what she's doing.

It's true! By the third trimester, your baby's ears and other sensory organs have developed enough to allow her to hear sounds coming from outside her pregnant mommy's body. But in addition to simply hearing these sounds as they are happening, researchers performing experiments similar to this one have shown that newborn babies will actually remember them later as well. In these experiments, pregnant women were asked to read the same story to their babies every day for the last six weeks of their pregnancies. After the babies were born, the mothers read either the familiar story or a new story to their babies. The babies reacted differently depending on which one they heard!

So if you have a song you plan to sing with your baby or a special story you anticipate reading to her, don't wait until after she's born — you can start right now. Choose quiet times, use a loud, clear voice, and be sure to repeat the process many times. It might feel a little awkward to be reading a book out loud to an invisible baby or singing childhood songs to yourself (especially if the only times you remember to try this experiment are while you're shopping for groceries or standing in line at the DMV), but your baby will be listening, and she will remember what she hears. It's pretty amazing to think that by doing something as simple as talking to your unborn baby, you can create a shared experience that will begin to bond parent and child before you two ever lay eyes on one another.

You may feel your baby reacting to your chosen song or story while you're still pregnant, becoming more active and kicking or rolling around in the womb. Later, after your baby is born, you will be able to see her reaction when you sing the song again. Does she get extra active and kick around as you sing? When you start reading your story, does she suck faster on her pacifier or stop fussing to listen?

In our case, our daughter's reaction was unmistakable — even before she was born. When we were expecting our first baby, Andy would often sing the song "Mrs. Train" by the band They Might Be Giants to our little one, and we would watch as Amber's baby belly would bob around to the sound of the music. When our due date passed and Amber hadn't yet begun labor, our OB had us come in frequently for nonstress tests. During these tests we would sit in a quiet room for fifteen minutes or so while the baby's heartbeat was recorded in the form of jagged little lines printing out onto a never-ending spool of paper.

During one of these tests, we decided to entertain ourselves by having Andy sing the now-familiar song to the baby. As soon as he started, the baby's heart rate — which had been hovering steadily between 130 and 140 beats per minute — shot all the way up to 165. The chart rolling out of the monitor morphed from gently rolling hills into a series of extreme peaks, cliffs, and drop-offs. We were alarmed. Andy stopped singing. We felt like we had done something bad and we were going to get in trouble. When the doctor walked in to read the machine's output, we held our breaths. But she said that the baby's heartbeat looked great, "especially this part," pointing to the spikes Andy had helped create when he sang the song. The doctor explained that she liked to see changes in the baby's heart rate like that because it indicated that the baby was being active. When the doctor left, Andy resumed the song and the baby danced along to it (or so we can only assume based on the pointy heart rate chart and the colossal kicks Amber was feeling).

Later, when our daughter was about two weeks old, we laid her on the couch and Andy sang the familiar song again. She became immediately alert and excited, kicking and flailing her little arms around. We were able to see firsthand how she must have been reacting in the womb.

Most of us don't really think about unborn babies as real people. We wonder what gender they are and what we might name them, but we don't think of them as actual human beings that have already begun experiencing the world. But a baby in the womb is busy using her senses and practicing things that she will do after she is born. She drinks, pees, hiccups, and cries, all the while listening to the sounds around her.

By twenty-four weeks of gestation, her hearing system is so well developed that she can experience the sounds of the world from inside the womb. She hears cars go by as you walk down the street, she hears your favorite music play on the radio, she hears you snore as you sleep at night, and she hears you talk every day. That's why you can soothe your baby so much quicker than anyone else — she was born already knowing the sound of your voice! She also recognizes the sounds of her native language. A baby who has heard English in the womb prefers to hear the sounds of English over the sounds of other languages. In that way, the baby's auditory experience in the womb primes her for learning language.

Tips to Help Your Child

If you're really into music, you may already have plans for treating your baby to some of the true classics — Mozart, the Beatles, NKOTB. But when it comes to helping your child's development, it turns out that what music you choose to play for her isn't nearly as important as how you choose to play it.

You can either expose your child to music passively (by playing your favorite tunes on the stereo while you play, read, eat, or generally go about your day) or actively (by interacting with each other and the music via singing, dancing, or playing musical instruments to the beat). And babies get a lot more out of music when you take the latter approach.

Researchers investigating the effect of music on two- to six-month-olds found that babies exposed to regular sessions of active musical interaction — like going to a structured music class or doing music-class-like activities at home — reap a variety of benefits. Not only can they better distinguish different musical tones, but they also tend to start using more gestures earlier, which is an important preverbal method of communication. Active musical interaction benefits the parent-child relationship as well. After all, how could you not be better friends with someone after an afternoon of singing, dancing, and playing together!

Tips to Help Yourself

Concerned your kid's going to be a picky eater a few months down the road? You may be able to put the kibosh on that right now. In addition to hearing, babies also use their other senses in the womb, including taste. Flavors from the food a mother eats will actually season her amniotic fluid. And since a not-yet-born baby is frequently swallowing the fluid around her, she gets a good sample of the foods her mother eats.

Researchers discovered this after instructing one group of pregnant women to drink carrot juice every day during their last trimester of pregnancy and a second group of women to drink only water. The results of the study showed that the women who drank carrot juice during their pregnancies had babies who enjoyed carrots more when they were introduced as baby food.

That's why it's important to remember that the foods you eat while pregnant can actually help to shape your child's future food preferences. (Since diet affects the taste of breast milk too, the same thing applies while you're breast-feeding.) If you want your children to eat their vegetables at age six, you'd be doing everyone a favor by eating them yourself right now. And if you are trying to decide whether or not to breast-feed after the baby comes, one thing you may want to consider is the fact that, in general, breast-fed babies tend to accept new foods more readily than their formula-fed peers, because breast-fed babies are exposed to a greater variety of flavors. Although a mother's diet is full of the various foods a baby will later eat, formula is stable in flavor and does not contain any previews of flavors to come.

Full disclosure: our kids turned out to be complete and utter chocolate fiends. We are not at all surprised by that.

Because the foods you eat during pregnancy and lactation are so influential to your baby, it's extra important to eat more healthy foods during those stages of your child's development. Not only are they better for you and your baby, but tasting them now may also help your baby to like them more later. It's never too early to create healthy habits!



A Face Only a Baby Could Love

Ah! The new baby has finally arrived! And by now you've discovered many of the fun and exciting things that come along with it: sleep deprivation, an increased tolerance for wearing clothing covered in other people's bodily fluids, and, of course, lots and lots of visitors wanting to see the baby.

And what do all of these well-wishers do when they show up? They peer over the side of the cradle at the tiny new addition to the family — and make the stupidest faces imaginable at it.

This experiment will show you how to turn this weird phenomenon that every newborn on earth goes through into a learning experience — both for you and for your kid!

If everything went according to plan, you probably noticed that during the times you were sticking your tongue out or opening your mouth, your baby was more likely to do the same. Pretty cool, huh? Your little one was rudely thrust out of his cozy cocoon only a few days ago, and to the untrained eye he appears to be no more than a grunting, sleepy, little ball of deliciously squishy flesh. But in actuality, he's already prepared to play his first game of Simon Says.

Your newborn came into the world with well-developed senses that he practiced using while inside the womb. And now that he's here, he's ready to immediately begin deciphering all the sensory input that the blooming, buzzing, bustling world throws at him. As a parent, you are a great big part of that input. That's why your baby will look for you when you walk across the room, turn when he hears your voice, respond to your scent and to your touch, and plant his slobbery little taste buds all over you whenever you give him the chance. Observing you is one of the very first ways your new baby learns. And imitating you — as this experiment demonstrates — is one of the most basic ways he shows you what he knows.

Your baby applies this incredible ability to observe and mimic you to learn lots of things, from the relatively minor trick of sticking out his tongue to ultimately more complex and useful tasks like feeding himself and telling a good story over the dinner table.

His ability to imitate actions quickly develops, so that by six weeks old, your baby can already remember and reproduce facial expressions. Using the same procedure as the one you used in this experiment, researchers found that six-week-old babies not only imitate facial expressions while they're watching them, but they will also continue to repeat those facial expressions over the next twenty-four hours. So try this again in a few weeks and you will observe not only your child's impressive ability to learn in the moment but also his even more impressive ability to remember what he's learned over time.

The moral of the story? Don't underestimate your kid. It's easy to assume your baby is too little to understand the things you do and say, but the fact is he's absorbing way more than you think. Your child was born with a foundation for learning, and he's ready to build on it. So make sure you're ready to start teaching!

Tips to Help Your Child

Kids learn all kinds of things through imitation, including how to treat other people. That's why it's extremely important that you provide positive relationship models for your child to imitate.

It's no secret that having a baby puts a lot of stress on a marriage. You have way more to do, you get a lot less sleep, and you have to rely on each other all the time. In a situation like this, conflict is bound to flare up. But once you have kids, it's more important than ever that you deal with conflicts effectively. In part because kids are such natural imitators, children who witness more marital conflict at home tend to be more aggressive themselves. They also exhibit frequent attention problems, difficulty regulating their emotions, higher-than-average levels of depression and anxiety, greater health problems, worse grades in school, and lower IQs.

By only six months old, babies already exhibit negative behavioral responses (looking distressed or crying) and physiological responses (including changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and the production of stress hormones) when exposed to marital conflict.

Here are a few simple tips for maintaining a positive, strong relationship:

* Be nice to each other. Being pleasant and doing nice things for each other throughout the day can help to keep a relationship healthy — the small stuff is important. And remember to be nice even when you're fighting. Think before you speak, and avoid saying anything that will leave a lasting scar.

* Fake it till you make it. Research shows that the more you smile, the happier you actually begin to feel. The same idea can be applied to your relationship. Go out of your way to treat each other positively, and you may actually start to feel more positively toward one another.

* Don't undermine each other. You should present a united front to your child. Whenever possible, every decision should be supported by both of you. If Daddy says no TV, then so does Mommy. And vice versa.

* Think of each other as comrades. Let's face it, you're both fighting in the same parental trench and your survival depends on one another. Treat each other with due respect.

Of course, some conflict is inevitable. But when your kids do see a spat, research suggests that the most important way to prevent the negative outcomes associated with witnessing marital conflict is to make sure they see a resolution as well. So even if you and your partner made up behind closed doors, it's a smart idea to reenact the reconciliation in front of your kids.

Unless makeup sex was involved.

Yikes. That would leave some seriously lasting scars.

Tips to Help Yourself

Your kid was born with the inherent desire to imitate you. That's kind of the greatest news ever. You do something, he's going to copy it. You do something stupid, and he's still going to copy it because he doesn't know any better yet. And this sticking your tongue out thing is really just the beginning. Flared nostril faces, inquisitive eyebrow raises, burps, farts, farts you make with your mouth, farts you make with your armpit, and a whole slew of age-inappropriate words, phrases, and gangsta rap lyrics can be coming out of your offspring's little body before you know it. If you can dream it, and you can demonstrate it, your kid can do it!

Inspiring, isn't it?


Excerpted from Think Like a Baby by Amber Ankowski, Andy Ankowski. Copyright © 2015 Amber Ankowski and Andy Ankowski. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

The First Year 1

Experiment #1 Tiny Tunes (3rd trimester-1 month) 3

Experiment #2 A Face Only a Baby Could Love (0-3 weeks) 9

Experiment #3 One Small Step for Baby (0-3 months) 14

Experiment #4 Scrambled, with Cheeks (0-4 months) 19

Experiment #5 Getting a Leg Up (2-5 months) 24

Experiment #6 Baby Boredom (2-8 months) 29

Experiment #7 Mad Mobile Skillz (3-6 months) 33

Experiment #8 Tipsy Tots (3-12 months) 41

Experiment #9 Now You See It…(7-9 months) 45

Experiment #10 …Now You Don't (8-10 months) 50

Experiment #11 My Kind of Doll (10-12 months) 55

The Second Year 61

Experiment #12 The Honeydew Whisperer (12-14 months) 63

Experiment #13 Do I Know You? (12-18 months) 69

Experiment #14 The Magic Touch (12-18 months) 75

Experiment #15 Talk to the Hand (12-24 months) 80

Experiment #16 Monkey See (14-18 months) 85

Experiment #17 That's Why There's Broccoli and Vanilla (14-18 months) 90

Experiment #18 School Belt (14-24 months) 102

Experiment #19 Getting Into Shapes (14-24 months) 102

Experiment #20 Quick Learner (15-24 months) 107

Experiment #21 Hey, Good Lookin'! (15-24 months) 115

Experiment #22 Yo-Yo Moppet (24 months and older) 119

The Third Year and Beyond 125

Experiment #23 That's Good Enough for Me (2-6 years) 127

Experiment #24 Think Inside the Box (2½-4 years) 133

Experiment #25 It's the Thought That Counts (2½-4 years) 138

Experiment #26 Mini Memorizer (3-4 years) 145

Experiment #27 The Young Switcheroo (3-4 years) 151

Experiment #28 For Realsies (3-5 years) 157

Experiment #29 I Am Not an Animal! (3-7 years) 164

Experiment #30 Pants on Fire (3-7 years) 168

Experiment #31 Doodle-y Noted (3 years and Older) 175

Experiment #32 The Sweet, Sticky Squish of Success (4-5 years) 180

Experiment #33 Imagine That! (4 years and older) 186

Final Thoughts 193

Acknowledgments 195

References 197

Index 199

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