Newborn babies change, grow, and develop very quickly. This is a great example of how quickly infants’ develop- a parent took a picture of his son everyday for the first year of his life and made a Video.
When they are very little it seems like they can’t do much but in fact newborns are quickly learning about the world around them through their senses- sight, sound, and touch.
There is some uncertainty about exactly how well babies can see when they are very young, but we do know that they can see, to some extent, even very early in life. Since we can’t ask a newborn how well they can see, we base our understanding of their vision on what they pay the most attention to. Based on attention research newborns attend to objects with sharp contrasts (e.g., black and white toys) and prefer to look at faces. Newborns can distinguish levels of brightness, color1, and size constancy2. Newborns can also hear. They can startle at loud sounds and can recognize familiar sounds. Here is a great example of a 5.5-month-olds’ ability to hear (and to be scared of the sound he hears). Finally, here is a quick video that describes newborns sensory development.
What can you do with your newborn to help him develop? What’s most important for a newborn is love and attention. Holding your child provides them with comfort and support which helps them to know that you are a person they can trust and count on. Play with your babies hands and toes and help them move their arms and legs gently so they can begin to understand movement and touch. Talk to your baby and pause to give them time to respond (even though they don’t talk yet, by modeling this interaction you are preparing babies for a world in which people will interact with them and wait for them to respond and react). Show your baby different things. Hold toys up close so the child can see them. Put them near his fingers so he can feel the different textures of toys and objects. All of these very simple behaviors are important for your newborn baby to begin to understand the world around him.
1Adams, R. J., Mauer, D., & Davis, M. (1986). Newborns discrimination of chromatic from achromatic stimuli. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 41, 169-187.
2Slater, A., Mattock, A., & Brown, E. (1990). Size constancy at birth: Newborn infants’ responses to retinal and real size. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 49, 413-422.