I swear my daughter noticed things around her the moment she was born. I would always catch her staring intently at the cats, her older brothers and sisters, and, well, me. I know babies aren't able to actually see things or focus on things for a little while, but I definitely wondered what it really meant if your baby is very observant. It turns out, experts have found what we moms have known from the beginning: if you have a super observant baby, you might just have a genius on your hands.
According to Zero to Three, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing child development, babies learn a lot in their first year of life, and mostly by observing the world around them. This is why it's so important to interact with your baby and give them lots of opportunities to explore with their senses. According to Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center, if your baby seems to intently focus on you and everything they encounter, this might be a sign that they are gifted and/or developmentally advanced. Their seemingly effortless ability to take things in and learn from them might mean that they will excel in some areas, but also that they might need more help from you to fit in a world that might not be ready for their awesomeness.
According to Zero to Three, babies are capable of learning at an exponential rate by exploring the world they see, smell, taste, hear, and feel around them. When you think about it, it's pretty amazing that a baby can go from crying to get your attention to saying "mama" and asking for their bottle by name in less than a year.
The same site adds that babies can have different interests, likes, dislikes, and temperaments, which honestly is probably not news to anyone who has spent a significant amount of time with more than one infant. This means that some babies seem to stare intently at the world, taking it all in, while others seem to need constant interaction from someone to be happy. According to the University of Michigan Extension, children learn primarily through observation, so from an early age, we, as parents and caregivers, should be mindful of what we say, what we show our kids, and how we model specific behaviors.
So, what does it mean if your baby seems particularly observant? According to educational psychologist David Palmer, Ph.D. being very observant is a trait commonly seen in gifted children. While most kids will take in the world around them, gifted kids are uniquely able to do so. As Palmer writes for Psychology Today, "Their brains appear to be mental sponges, effortlessly absorbing and incorporating new information and ideas."
According to Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman, a psychologist and director of the Gifted Development Center, being gifted doesn't necessarily mean your baby will play the piano before they can walk, or solve the global energy crisis by the time they hit preschool. Rather, it simply means they are developing at an advanced rate in specific areas and when compared to other kids.
The good news, according to Silverman, is that if you can identify and foster this natural curiosity and ability to learn early, you might be able to help your gifted kid excel in all areas of their life and as they continue to develop. As a result, you will be able to aid your child finding their place in the world, something that can be really hard for gifted kids, who are more advanced than other kids their age and, in turn, stand out.
According to one study published in the journal Scientific Reports, being observant might actually be a trait you're born with. The research team found that newborn babies who were able to focus on objects longer in their first few days of life, were less likely to have behavioral conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) later in childhood. While this study only included 80 babies, it may actually provide evidence that these conditions are present at birth, and may signal a need for more research on how we, as parents, can help our children overcome related challenges. That's pretty cool, if you ask me.
It might take a year or two before you're able to find out if baby's keen ability to focus and observe means anything at all. So, for now, it's probably best to assume that they are taking everything in, learning as best they can, and play a game of peek-a-boo or two. Even if it it won't make your child a genius, it's way more fun than stressing about it.
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